person walking through a forest

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost
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How does the symbolism of the season help to construct meaning in the poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?

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In Frost's "The Road Not Taken ," two clues suggest the season is autumn. First, in the opening line, the speaker mentions a "yellow wood." Then in the second line of stanza three, the speaker states that whichever way he turns, nobody has stepped on the leaves on the...

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In Frost's "The Road Not Taken," two clues suggest the season is autumn. First, in the opening line, the speaker mentions a "yellow wood." Then in the second line of stanza three, the speaker states that whichever way he turns, nobody has stepped on the leaves on the ground:

In leaves no step had trodden black

The leaves on the trees seem to have turned yellow, which would happen in the fall, a time we could also expect many leaves to be on the ground. While the imagery is ultimately ambiguous—the leaves might look yellow because of the sun shining on them, and leaves fall on the ground in other seasons than fall—the best surmise is autumn.

If autumn is the season, this suggests a symbolism of time running short, which supports the melancholy theme of the poem. Spring is a time of new birth and new beginnings, but autumn is a season when nature matures and winter, symbolically associated with death, is not far away.

The poem is about making choices. The speaker would like to go down both paths when he gets to a fork in the road, but he knows he has to make a decision because the time is short. He says he will keeps one road for another day, meaning he hopes he can come back and walk on this road, but he also mentions that:

I doubted if I should ever come back.

Autumn, a season of endings, symbolizes the bittersweetness of time's transience. We don't have all the time in the world before death comes: we won't be able to fulfill every dream.

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