Has Robert Frost used real life experience as the basis of "The Road Not Taken"? Explain.

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lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Road Not Taken," Frost could have been writing of life experiences. The poem is in first person which could indicate the speaker is Frost himself:

Frost wrote the poem in the first person, which raises the question of whether the speaker is the poet himself or a persona, a character created for the purposes of the poem.

No doubt, the speaker could be Frost. Frost writes with such detail about the indecision of which road to take. He titles the poem "The Road Not Taken." Frost is definitely thinking about the road he did not take. He writes that he shall be telling this story with a sigh. Only the writer could know such sadness at having to take one road while wishing he could take another road at the same time. 

Also, Frost states that he is "one traveler." He states that "long [he] stood" trying to decide which road to take. Frost knows too many exact details. Obviously, he is writing from personal experience. He stood looking down one road while trying to decide which road to take. If Frost is not the speaker, he certainly knew what indecision is like. 

He writes that he is sorry that he could not travel both roads. This statement could only be written by someone who has experienced the sorrow associated with deciding which road to take. Frost knows too much about the thoughts of the speaker. He understands the speaker's thoughts. He knows what the speaker is thinking. Most likely, Frost is the speaker for he understands the dilemma of the speaker all too well. 

Another point that could prove Frost is the speaker is that he knew that no step had trodden the roads:

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

Also, Frost knows the end of the story. He took the road less traveled by and feels that made all the difference. Sadly, he tells the end of the story with a sigh and will be telling his story ages hence with a sadness:

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.

Only the person who had experienced the difference would be able to write about it with such detail. 

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Robert Frost once wrote:

Everything written is as good as it is dramatic. It need not declare itself in form, but it is drama or nothing.

Drama involves conflict. Frost creates a mini-drama in "The Road Not Taken." The speaker--presumably Frost himself--comes to a fork in the road of life and has to make a choice. This involves internal conflict. He stands at the crossroads trying to decide which road to take. He is frustrated because he fears he might make the wrong choice and in any case will never know where he might have ended up if he had chosen the other road.

Frost seems to be thinking about his own life experience.With his intelligence, talent, education, and personality, he could have gotten involved in some activity that would have led to financial success, but he knew he would have had to sacrifice much of the time he could have devoted to his writing. Instead, as is well known, he chose to lead a simple life of a gentleman farmer, not unlike that of Henry David Thoreau, another New Englander, whose best-known work is the American classic Walden.

Frost may have had some misgivings, but most of his admirers are happy he made the choice he did, because he became a great American poet and in his later life received all the recognition he deserved. His best-known poem is "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" (covered thoroughly in eNotes). All his poetry deals with simple subjects in homely settings, but most contain that element of drama he considered so important.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator


The following was posted in eNotes by tiff72 enoter on March 10, 2009 under the topic of The Road Not Taken and offers proof that Frost's poem was about himself and a serious life choice he had made in his past.


"On one occasion he [RF] told of receiving a letter from a grammar-school girl who asked a good question of him: 'Why the sigh?' That letter and that question, he said, had prompted an answer.

Amherst Mass April 1925

"Dear Miss Yates:

No wonder you were a little puzzled over the end of my Road Not Taken. It was my rather private jest at the expense of those who might think I would yet live to be sorry for the way I had taken in life. I suppose I was gently teasing them. I'm not really a very regretful person, but for your solicitousness on my behalf I'm
your friend always
Robert Frost"

[Finger, L. L.: "Frost's 'The Road Not Taken': a 1925 Letter come to Light", American Literature v.50]


debashreebanerjee | Student

This poem may have some reference to the life of Robert Frost. It refers to a man choosing his path in the woods in autumn. utumn also bears a symbolic reference to the middle-age of  aman's life. Frost was 38 when he took the major decision of relocation.


iamnotanerd | Student

This poem revolves round a very important aspect of life - making a choice. Very often people get a chance to make a choice. They make one choice and go ahead in their lives. They cannot turn back to exercise another choice. 

This poem is actually a real-life experience of the poet Robert Frost. He once had to choose one career out of two. After a careful thought, he chose. According to the poem, he chose the second one as it was very inviting and seemed to want somebody to walk on it. He wanted to walk on both the roads but it is impossible as, he knows, one way leads to another and you will not get an opportunity to return and walk on the other road. He proceeded with the second road.

At the end it is mentioned that it had made a difference in his life (sadly acc. to the poem). It is actually because initially the road or his life had a lot of ups and downs. It seemed very difficult. So, in this poem, it is mentioned with a sigh. But the truth is that for those who have the courage to manage their difficulties, the result will always be fruitful like the poet's life.

P.S.: Hope this helped you!!!!!!!