“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost presents a quandary to the narrator both literally and metaphorically. The conflict when settled will make a tremendous difference in the life of the speaker.
The poem’s literal meaning
A person is out the woods in fall when he comes to a fork in the road. Which road does he choose to travel? It is unfortunate to the narrator that he cannot travel both paths. He looks at one of the roads, even bending down to see as far as he can see.
…long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,And having perhaps the better claim
Quickly he decides to take the other road which appears just as good and possibly better. This path was not mown, and no one seems to have gone down it, although when the speaker looks at both of the roads, they have about the same amount of use because the leaves on the roads were not disturbed. He hopes that someday he will be able to come back and go down the other road, but he really doubts it.
Many years in the future, he will be telling possibly his grandchildren about the decision that he had to make. He will tell it with a bit of regret or longing. He chose a path that was less traveled, and it made a tremendous difference.
The metaphorical road
The wood represents the life of the narrator and where he finds himself. The divergent paths are the important decision about some facet of his life that he must make. The reader does not know what the choices are, but it could be anything: career, marriage, military, education, or financial.
The question is which route in life does the narrator take? Is it the typical avenue that everyone takes or is it the more non-conforming choice, the less-traveled route? The interesting aspect of the decision is that for every road that a person takes in his life there is that road or choice that was not taken.
The speaker makes the decision that is more obscure. Both of the selections were very similar, but one appeared to be separated from the normal path. As he discusses this in the future, he will retell this with a bit of longing for the choice that he did not make.
One interesting thing that readers overlook is the name of the poem. It is not the road less traveled but rather the road not taken. The impetus here is that there is always a bit of confusion when the “what ifs” set in.