Do you think the road the speaker took was really the less travelled one? Why?

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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" is one of the most famous and misinterpreted poems of all time. The last two lines of the poem have been made into all sorts of products—coffee mugs, bumper stickers, posters, t-shirts. But the poem is less about the choice that the speaker made in that moment—the choice of which road to take—and more about how the choices that he makes change him. 

Poems are open to interpretation, so there will be those who disagree, but it is my assertion that the speaker in the poem does not take the road that is less traveled on, but rather makes a choice that transforms him so that he could never again go back to that moment and be the same. 

Evidence to support this interpretation comes from Frost's description of the two roads. A deeper analysis of these lines reveals that the paths are not really very different from each other. They are fairly equal in the amount of traffic that they have seen. In the second and third stanza, we see the speaker saying that the paths were worn about the same amount and that neither path had seen any foot traffic that day. 

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,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
A close examination of the first stanza shows Frost's careful word choice. He speaks of trying to look down each path, perhaps to try to determine what is at the end of each. He says he could not travel both and be one traveler. What he means is that whichever way he chooses, he will be changed by the experience, so that he will never be the same traveler again. 
favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, the road the speaker takes is not really the less traveled one, because, according to the second and third stanzas, there is no road less traveled; they have both been traveled by relatively equal numbers of people.  The speaker says that the second road is "just as fair" as the first road, it just happens to be grassier; however, "the passing there / Had worn them really about the same" (lines 6, 9-10).  The passing there refers to people who have taken these roads before, and, since the roads are worn about the same, we can ascertain that about the same number of people have taken each one.  The roads may look a bit different, but they are equally worn.  In fact, the speaker says that "both that morning equally lay," strewn with leaves that had not yet been trodden black by the steps of others (11).  Therefore, there is no road less traveled because both roads have been taken an approximately equal number of times.