How would you describe the two roads the traveler finds in "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?
This deceptively simple poem, "The Road Not Taken," has been subject to many different interpretations. The poem is narrated by a traveler who is walking in the woods. He encounters a fork in the road, and, realizing he cannot go down both paths at once, must choose to walk down one of the two roads. He regrets not being able to experience both paths and stands there for a while trying to decide between them. Peering down the first path, he cannot tell where it leads.
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
The traveler decides to take the second path, a path he describes initially as just as attractive and possibly even better than the first because fewer people have used it.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
The traveler then changes his initial statement, however, and admits the two paths are just about the same.
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
The traveler may have known the paths were the same initially, or perhaps he only sees this retrospectively. He takes the second path and regrets that he probably will never return to take the first path.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
Here, Frost reflects on the continuity of our choices, and how they can lead us to places where we can no longer access the set of choices we once had.
The traveler in the poem projects a vision of himself telling this story long after it happened. He sees himself telling others he took the path fewer people used and that choice made a huge difference for him, even though the two roads were in reality effectively the same.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference.
Some see these two roads as Frost's way of encouraging nonconformity and bold choices, but others see the metaphor of the two roads completely differently. From the opposing perspective, the traveler did not really choose the road "less traveled by," since both roads appeared equally traveled upon that day. He only presents his choice of the second road as picking the one "less traveled by" later on when he tells this story to others.
The poem does not tell us whether the traveler was happy with his choice of the second road, only that the choice was very significant. The traveler tells this story with a sigh, which seems to indicate he still has a measure of regret over some aspect of his choice between the two roads.