The Road Not Taken Questions and Answers
by Robert Frost

The Road Not Taken book cover
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In his poem "The Road Not Taken," why did Robert Frost choose "The Road Not Taken" instead of "The Road Taken"?

When forced to make a choice, the speaker of "The Road Not Taken" chooses the less-known road because he wishes to be a leader and an independent thinker. He justifies this decision with the promise that he can always change his mind.

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Anne Riley eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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.”

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Philip Arrington eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The speaker of "The Road Not Taken," by Robert Frost, pauses at a place in the woods where two paths diverge. Both paths seem equally good, and he can't tell where either one leads.

In the future, the speaker says, he will tell others that he chose "the one less traveled." By saying "I chose the one less traveled by," the speaker will be pretending that he chose a unique and unexplored path, when, really, the paths were "worn . . . about the same."

The poem deals with the choices that people are often confronted with in life and the regret that they sometimes feel when they choose one path over another. Frost refers to this when he says, "I kept the first for another day," but he then says that he will probably never return to walk on the other path.

In conclusion, "the road not taken" of the title does not refer to the road that the speaker chooses to walk on, but rather, the road that the speaker decides not to walk on. He may someday come to regret that decision, but he will always stick by his story of having taken the more difficult, unexplored path.

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Renata Kelly eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The speaker in "The Road Not Taken" is reflecting upon a choice he once made. Having come to a crossroads, and having to choose one of two roads, he considered them both, and picked the one that seemed marginally "less traveled by." The speaker states that this reason was insignificant, and in fact:

Though as for that the passing there
Had worn [the roads] really about the same
He could not "travel both/And be one traveler," so his decision came down to something fairly random.
The importance of this decision is not the physical fact of the "two roads diverg[ing] in a yellow wood," but rather the choice itself. Every choice presents a person with multiple outcomes; by picking one road, the speaker chose one particular outcome, which "knowing how way leads on to way," has led to all the subsequent events of the speaker's life. By making the choice, the speaker closed off the potential outcomes that lay down the second road, and he will never know what might have been had he taken that road instead of the "the one less traveled by," but he does know that his choice "has made all the difference."

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Frost called the poem “The Road Not Taken” because the poem focuses on the road not taken, rather than the road taken. 

At the end of the poem, the speaker says when two roads diverged in a wood he “took the one less traveled by/And that has made all the difference” (lines 19-20).  The poem is about choosing a different route.  Therefore, the focus is on the effects of that different road.  There were too choices, but the one fewer people had taken was the speaker’s choice.  This is what made an impact in his life.

Oh, I marked the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way

I doubted if I should ever come back. (lines 13-15)

Sometimes we make a choice, and don’t look back.  Sometimes we think we will return to another choice later, but as the speaker points out, life gets in the way.  We mean to do things, but then we never go back.  We make a choice in all honesty knowing we may never get that chance again. Sometimes we don’t want to make a choice, but indecision is not an option.  You have to choose one.  Choose to go where others have not gone before, and that will definitely make an impact.

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