The speaker in Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is faced with a decision: which road to walk down. The roads symbolize a decision, something every person must face at various points in life. The speaker ponders the two roads, one that many have traveled and one that few have chosen, and ultimately chooses the less-worn path.
What is the thought process in the speaker’s decision? First, there is the wish to take both roads, which is impossible. Literally, he cannot travel down two paths at once. Figuratively, when faced with a choice, he must pick one over the other; it’s not possible to do two, perhaps opposite, things simultaneously. In life, one must constantly make decisions, sometimes without knowing what lies at the end of the path.
Next, there is the point that many have trodden down one road rather than the other. The speaker ponders whether to follow others or create his own path, his own destiny. He ultimately chooses the less-traveled road which is “just as fair” and might even provide “the better claim” because it “wanted wear.” Taking this road indicates that the speaker wishes to lead his own life, not follow in the footsteps of others who have all done the same thing. Independent thinkers take the road less traveled, and the speaker chooses to associate with that group.
Finally, there is the thought that perhaps if things do not work out on the chosen road, the speaker can always fall back on the worn road. “Oh, I kept the first for another day!” In making decisions, people sometimes rationalize that they have a safe choice just in case the risky one does not work out. The speaker considers this, but ultimately realizes that he probably will not go back to choose the safe path. Life gets in the way and it is impossible to turn back in time and redo a decision. Once a choice is made, there is no undoing it, and one must face the consequences.
In reflecting on this decision, the speaker reveals that the less-traveled road has been the better one, the one “that has made all the difference.”