What is the inner meaning of the poem "The Road Not Taken"?

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sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The "inner meaning" of the poem is about choices.  The poem talks about a guy that is at a fork in the road.  He can go right or left.  The choice is up to him.  One path looks more well kept and well traveled than the other path, but neither path has a clear advantage over the other.  The narrator says that he knows choosing one path will mean that he can never choose the other path.  At the end of the poem, the narrator says that he chose to follow the path less traveled, and that choice has made all of the difference.  

The fork in the road could represent any set of life choices that a person has to make.  Which college should I attend?  Which job offer should I take?  Which play should I call in this situation? In each of those cases, you have to pick one.  Most of the time it also means that by choosing "A," you can't ever go back and choose "B."  The opportunity has past.  

The poem seems to indicate that choosing the choice that fewer people choose has made a positive difference.  

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Making the choice that fewer people choose very well could make a positive difference.  I have no argument with that, but the poem doesn't expressly say that the choice had a positive effect.  The choice you make might be the one less chosen for a reason.  It might be the wrong choice.  It would still make all the difference.  
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skyey-i's profile pic

skyey-i | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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This poem by Robert Frost is considered one of the most misinterpreted poems. It poses a psychological question confronted by all of us, perhaps several times in our lives - the question of making the right choice. Who hasn’t been baffled making a choice between two or more alternatives, seemingly alike? It becomes all the more difficult when you know your decision is going to have far-reaching consequences and you don’t have much or any idea about the alternatives.

Journeying, the speaker in the poem has reached a point where the road diverges in two opposite directions. Both of them look quite similar, “and both that morning equally lay.” This makes his choice difficult. However, he decides to take the second road as he believes the second road, “was grassy and wanted wear.” He thinks it’s less traveled by.

The actual problem starts here, after he has made a choice. A strong sense of doubt and anxiety grips him. This is because he has no idea as to where he’s going to be led by the less traveled road and what he’s going to miss forever by forsaking the first road. Although he keeps the first road for some other day, he is fairly sure he won’t be able to come back. This makes him all the more uneasy and apprehensive.

This small poem of four stanzas presents the complexities of human life. Thus the inner meaning of the poem is all about human confrontation with the forks on the road of life and the ensuing state of anxiety and apprehension. Everybody in their lives confronts innumerable situations when they have to make a choice between two or more options. Sometimes, the choice is difficult as well as crucial. Unfortunately, nobody can actually find out what he’s going to lose by not taking up the other alternative at hand. Quite often, like the speaker in this poem, one is left in a troubled and tormented state of mind. 

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