In “The Road Not Taken,” the speaker strolls along a road in the woods on an autumn day. Suddenly faced with a juncture where the road forks into two separate roads, he must decide which of the two new paths to follow. He carefully observes the first one until it bends out of sight "in the undergrowth.” The second option is a seemingly less travelled road that has
perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
The second road seems more appealing with its seemingly fresh grass. The speaker chooses to continue on his walk on the second road.
Upon reflection, however, he realizes that both roads are actually similar. He concedes that the second path is “just as fair” as the first one. After walking on the second road, he realizes that
the passing there
Had worn them really about the same
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
In fact, neither path is so worn that its fallen leaves are crushed enough to be “black.” The speaker closes the poem with an imagined future recollection of his choice:
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
According to this final stanza, the fork in the literal road serves as a metaphor for a turning point in life where a person must choose between two paths: a conventional and safe one and a less conventional, “less traveled,” and more unknown one. These metaphorical paths could be careers, lifestyles, or other choices.
In his imagined recollection, the speaker claims that he will feel that he took the less conventional, more daring path that has “made all the difference.” But by revealing the likenesses between the two different roads, the speaker suggests that both may have led to similar destinations and experiences. Thus, the choice is far less consequential than the poem's conclusion may lead readers to suspect.