person walking through a forest

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost
Start Free Trial

Do you sense fear in the poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I can sense what might be characterized as fear in the poem, but I would describe the feeling it conveys more as a sensitive, bittersweet awareness that we can't do everything in life. Making a choice between two things often means that the passed over choice will never happen.

The poem's speaker is walking in the woods when he comes to a fork in the road. He has to make a decision to turn either left or right. He can't go both ways. He studies the two roads and decides to take the one that seems slightly less traveled.

He wishes he could take both roads. He tells himself that:

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

But then he adds, showing he understands that life is finite:

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
In the last stanza, the speaker says he will in later life be telling the story of the roads with a "sigh." A sigh indicates not so much fear as regret: regret that he can't have it both ways. The speaker, however, does not seem dissatisfied with the choice he has made.
A decision about which way to turn on a path through the woods is trivial, and some critics have suggested the poem is a joke, but it does function on a more profound level. The two roads stand for any life decision we have to make. Once we make a life decision, we often can't go back. That knowledge or reality can generate fear, but in this poem it primarily generates a melancholy acceptance of life's limits.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team