person walking through a forest

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost
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What does the road symbolize in "The Road Not Taken"? What about the woods?

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The road in Frost's famous poem is symbolic of the path that one takes in life. One chooses a particular direction, and the choice determines every other event that one may encounter. One's decision of a particular route, therefore, determines one's destiny. It is difficult to determine exactly where the...

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The road in Frost's famous poem is symbolic of the path that one takes in life. One chooses a particular direction, and the choice determines every other event that one may encounter. One's decision of a particular route, therefore, determines one's destiny. It is difficult to determine exactly where the route will lead, and a calculated guess or assumption is all one has, unlike a physical path that one knows will lead to a specific destination. 

Furthermore, the split in the road is suggestive of the choices we are faced with on our life's journey. In the poem, the speaker chooses the route "less traveled by." The only distinctive contrast between this road and the other that "it was grassy and wanted wear" (line 8). Other than that, the two roads were mostly similar. The speaker regrets the fact that he cannot travel both roads at the same time and is compelled to decide between the two. The speaker's difficulty is emblematic of the challenges we face when having to make life decisions. Although the differences between the options we have are often very small, we have to choose and may, in future, wonder what our lives would have been like if we had decided differently—just as the speaker in the poem does.  

Once a particular choice has been made, it is difficult and even impossible to return to one's original position for "way leads on to way" which means that an initial decision determines every other event that follows. The speaker affirms the fact that one might regret or feel sad about not knowing where the other choice might have lead to:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
The last line of the poem "And that has made all the difference" has been interpreted to mean many different things. One of these assumes that the message is inspirational and that the speaker is saying that having chosen the less common or ordinary direction has resulted in high reward. The line is understood to mean that being different and accepting the greater challenge is more beneficial. Many scholars, however, also contend that just the mere act of having made a choice is what has brought a difference and not the fact that the speaker has chosen a particular route. It takes greater courage and conviction to make a choice than to remain indecisive and noncommittal. 
 
The woods allude to the barriers and difficulties one may encounter in life. One's life path has to circumvent these obstacles just as the paths through the forest go around the trees and avoid all other hindrances. 
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The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost, is potentially the most famous English-language poem. In the poem, a narrator is faced with two different paths in the woods. He takes one of these paths, and foresees himself claiming that this choice "made all the difference." The narrator sees his choice as significant whether or not the choice actually made a difference. In the poem, the roads and the wood are prominently featured, and these images are crucial to the poem's success.

The roads can symbolize a direction or path in life. Pursuing a career as a doctor could be seen as a "road." Studying literature could also be seen as a "road." In this poem, the narrator decides to take a road that has not been trodden by as many people. Some paths, like being a doctor or a lawyer, could be seen as well-trodden paths. Whereas others, like those in the creative fields, are harder to decipher. These would be less-trodden paths. 

The woods can symbolize many things, but they may best symbolize hardship. In this poem, the well-trodden path is often seen as less wooded, meaning it is an easier path to take. The less-trodden path is viewed as more difficult to travel. For instance, one could say a creative "road" is harder because there are more opportunities to fail. 

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