“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost must be read on a literal and figurative level. The poem appears deceptively simple. The theme of the poem is choice and its inevitability. The choice must be based on faith because until the person experiences his decision he will not know if it was the right one.
The title of the poem is “tricky.” The poem is often read as an optimistic view of life’s decisions. If that were true, the title of the poem should be “The Road That Was Taken.” That is not the focus of the poem. It is the road that was not chosen that is emphasized.
A man is in the woods in the fall of the year. A crossroads stands before him. He is sad that he cannot go down both roads. He stands for a long time looking down one of the roads until the foliage interferes with his view. For some reason, he chooses the other road. Initially, he says that the other road had been less travel and was the better choice.
Eventually, he admits that both roads were about the same. His commitment to go the other way forces him to travel down that road. He wishes that he could come back some day and travel down the other way; however, he knows that this is doubtful.
His final thought is that someday he would be thinking about his decision; and he would tell the story of the two roads. He will tell the story with a twinge of regret…because this road made all the difference in his life.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I---
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
A person is standing at the crossroads of his life. He has to make a decision between two things which will impact his life. Marriage, college, work, travel---he must decide which route to take in this important decision.
He ponders both choices for a long time. All at once, he makes his decision. The other path looked just the same. For some unknown reason, he makes his selection. He never forgets the other choice and hopes that someday he might be able to try it. In reality, it is doubtful that he will be able to come back to this choice in the future.
When he tells about this important decision sometime in the future, he will recall this time when he chose his life’s path. He will tell the story with a sign indicating that he indicates with his sigh that he may not have been completely happy with his choice. He made his decision, and it made all the difference in his life.
Often readers overlook the title of the poem thinking the impetus of the poem is on the road the narrator chose. However, it is the road that he did not take that also made the difference in the speaker’s life. His desire to know what would have happened if he had chosen the over road makes the real difference in his life.
In this poem, the speaker recalls a moment in his life when he had to choose between two paths. These are described as paths in the woods, but metaphorically speaking, these are paths one takes in life such as taking a job, marrying, etc.
Since he could not travel both roads, he had to take one road. At first he thinks he has taken the road less travelled, but on second thought, he decides that both roads looked like they had been travelled the same amount.
Then took the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
The speaker remarks that he kept the road he did not take for another day. But realizing that he will probably never have the opportunity again, he wonders where the "road not taken" would have led him.
Remember that he only thinks or wants to believe that he took the road "less travelled by." Either choice would have "made all the difference." But since he chose one road, he supposes that in the future he will stand by his choice. He imagines saying "with a sigh" (implying doubt) that the road he took was the "road less travelled by" and the one that has "made all the difference." However, the doubt is there. This indicates that the speaker will always wonder about where the "road not taken" would have led him.