Is The Road Not Taken in some way ironic?

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andrewnightingale | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Yes, definitely. The first irony lies in the title. Although the poem's title is The Road Not Taken, the primary focus is on the road that the speaker actually took. One would assume that the speaker would have focused on the subject of the title, but he ironically chooses not to do so. This is clear from the following lines:

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
 
I took the one less traveled by,
 
There is, however, one powerful reference to the road which the speaker did not take:
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
The tone expressed here indicates wistfulness or perhaps even some kind of regret, emphasized by the exclamation and the use of 'Oh'. The speaker might have wondered what the outcome would have been if he had take the
alternative road or he might regret having made the choice he did, for the result was probably not as pleasing as he would have liked. This is further emphasized by the use of 'sigh' in the final stanza.

Robert Frost obviously had much fun in composing this poem, for, as he himself reportedly said, the poem is very 'tricky'.

The idea of the poem being 'tricky', has resulted in a great many contrasting interpretations, and herein lies an even greater irony, for the poem is to be understood as a metaphor for choice and whether its outcome is pleasing or not. However, many interpreters deem the poem to be a metaphor for being 'different', not following the crowd. Such interpretations see the narrative as a symbol for those who do not follow the ordinary or mundane and, by making such a choice, also make a difference, not only in their own lives, but also in others'. 

In this sense, the poem acquires an inspirational quality, which is not bad at all, but it basically misses the point. The reason for this interpretation is derived from the line:

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
It is also ironic that the speaker refers to his choice as 'the one less traveled by' when he states that he saw hardly any difference between the two roads:
Then took the other, as just as fair,
 
Had worn them really about the same,
The only reason he had made his choice was because:
...having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
The speaker apparently only chose that particular route because it had more grass. Maybe because he assumed that it would make for a more comfortable journey? Anyway, the speaker in the end, does not seem to have regretted his
choice much (though some interpretations suggest that he did, as indicated by the word 'sigh' in the final stanza).
 
The final irony, perhaps, lies in the speaker's statement:
And that has made all the difference.
What difference? Positive or negative? The speaker ironically leaves us with this conundrum. Furthermore, how could he have known that there was indeed a difference if he had not taken the other road at all? One could then suggest
that that is why the title is The Road Not Taken instead of The Road Taken. The reader is left with more questions than answers.
 
A 'tricky' poem indeed.

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