What is the summary of the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost?

Expert Answers
James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A full summary of Robert Frost's poem needs to, I believe, cover the content of all of the stanzas and refrain from making interpretive statements (as such statements fall under the topic of "theme" more than "summary"). To add to the first poster's summary in the first three sentences, then, I would add the following:

The first three stanzas make consistent use of the past tense. These stanzas are rich in imagery that present the two paths as different and yet the same. The fourth stanza contains a shift in time from the past to future. The speaker now reflects on how, some time in the future, he or she will look back and assign great significance ("all the difference") to the choice of one path over the other.

See the "meaning" section in the link below for another summary of the poem.

slchanmo1885 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken is a poem about a traveler walking along a path. In four stanzas, the author tells this story: The traveler comes across a fork in the road, where there are two choices of where he could walk. He looks at both of the paths and deliberates, and then chooses the road that is less taken, thereby choosing a different path than most people. This poem is often seen as a statement of individuality. Walking down the "road not taken" as often will take someone to a different place than most people. If you make different choices in life, you won't end up like everyone else. The poem also makes the subtle point that you never really know where you'll end up until you take the risk and choose the path. 

Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I second the excellent answer above by jk180.  The poem may be cited as a depiction of individuality, but doing so would be erroneous.  The paths the speaker originally comes across are basically the same.  He does not travel the road less-traveled.  The roads are similar, and worn about the same.

In the fourth stanza, the speaker imagines himself using the fork in the road incident to tell a story and pretend one path was less-traveled than the other.  He will play the role of a wise old man and tell others that he chose the unpopular path and that has made all the difference.  But he will be telling a white lie, or making up a fish story, so to speak.

josajoseph08 | Student

This poem is a metaphor of life. It tells about making choices and taking the right path.

1- The poet is describing a fork in the road. The 'yellow wood' suggests it is autumn season

2_3- The poet wants to go down both roads at once, but realizing that it is impossible, he dicides to choose one. Thus antethesis is used here.

4_5- He is thinking hard about his choice. He stares at one road, seeing where it goes but he can see only up to the 1st bend.

6_8-He looks at the other road and thinks it would be better as it hasnt been walked veery much. The word wanted means 'locked'. Thus alliteration is used.

9_10- He changes his mind and says both the roads are same in appearence.

11_12- Both the paths have been covered by leaves. They havent turned black by crushing them.

13- The poet decides to take the 2nd path. He kept the 1st one for later.

14_15- His hopes to come back and try the other path may be foolish as one path leads to another. He doesnt know whether he would come back.

16_17- (We jump forward in time) ZThis line is very important. The 'sigh' can be a sigh of satisfaction or a sigh of regret.

20- 'A difference' could either mean success or utter failiure. The poet is just saying that the choice he had to take was an important one.


penemra | Student

This twenty-line poem contains four stanzas of five lines each.
The poem is set in a wood in autumn. The poem cleverly combines memory with personal prophesy. It contains a mental picture from the poet’s past and future.

On one level, the poem describes a woodland scene where a country road split into to two roads at a fork. It also describes a traveller’s regret at not being able to travel both roads. After making up his mind about what road to take, the traveller regretted not taking the other road.
On a deeper level, the poem describes a dilemma or a no-win-situation. The poem explores feelings of curiosity and regret associated with making a decision:
‘and that has made all the difference’.

In the first stanza, Frost describes the junction where two different roads split from the road he was walking on. He must have come to a ‘y’ junction or fork in the forest road. It must have been autumn because the leaves were ‘yellow’. The poet describes his long curious gaze down the road he didn’t take. The first road he looked at was a mystery, hidden by a bend.

In the second stanza, Frost states that both roads seemed equally nice to a traveller like himself:
‘as just as fair’.
The only difference was that one road had less signs of wear from travellers and walkers:
‘Because it was grassy and wanted wear’.
‘Wanted’ means lacked. The unworn look gave that road a ‘better claim’.
Then, Frost changed his mind. He decided that both roads were in fact equally worn.

In the third stanza, he provides another image of autumn by referring to the leaves that covered both roads. There was no sign of a footstep on the leaves of either road on that morning:
‘In leaves no step had trodden black’.
Frost writes that he decided to stick to his decision about the second route. He consoled himself by saying that he would take the first road he looked at on another day. At the same time, he doubted whether he’d pass that way again.

In the final stanza, he expects he will have regrets in the future about the road he didn’t take.
‘I shall be telling this with a sigh’.
Frost expects that sometime in the future he will regret the decision he had to make in the wood. He then summarises the first and second stanza, by stating how he decided on his route:
‘and I-I took the one less travelled by’.
Note the hesitation as shown by the repetition of ‘I’
Finally, Frost predicts that in the future he will claim that his choice of road that morning in the yellow wood ‘made all the difference’. He expects that his decision at the fork in the road will shape his life or destiny.