What is the theme of "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?

The main themes of the "The Road Not Taken" are the impacts of choices and the desire for to be unique. The speaker claims to have chosen the "road less traveled," but at the outset of the poem, he acknowledges that both paths are "worn about the same." This suggests that the speaker's choice wasn't as brave or unique as he wants others to believe, calling into question whether it is our actual choices or the way in which we think about them that truly affects our lives.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"The Road Not Taken," by Robert Frost is an often misinterpreted poem.  The content has nothing to do with taking an unpopular road or choosing the difficult, less-traveled path.  The roads, the speaker says, are pretty much the same.  There was virtually no difference.  He does not take the less-traveled path.  He is not a trail blazer and this poem is not moralistic.  Again, the paths are virtually the same.

The speaker in the poem thinks about how he will one day use this decision to play the wise old man.  He will claim that the two paths were different, and that choosing the less-traveled path made all the difference.  He will rewrite the incident for the purpose of telling tales when he is old:  like one tells a story of how big the caught fish was, etc. 

The poem is light-hearted.  If anything it makes fun of those who would proclaim having taken the unpopular road and having been unconventional. 


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

To me, Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" addresses the ways in which we assign significance to our choices. The poem is indeed at least in part about the choice between two possible routes that the speaker walking along the wooded trail could take. At least two sets of details in the poem drive home the notion, however, that these two paths really aren't that different:

... the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black

Both paths, in other words, look both equally worn and untrodden. The human speaker, however, seems compelled to assign all kinds of meaning to this moment of being faced with two possible paths while strolling one morning through the woods and to attribute that paritcular choice to the individual. The final stanza drives this pont home with the repeated use of "I" and perhaps some gentle mockery of the idea of assigning all kinds of meaning to a simple walk in the woods.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I think the theme of The Road Not Taken is about how challenge draws us. We are attracted to the opportunity to overcome obstacles. The road that hadn't been taken "wanted wear". The process of our decision-making deals with weighing the obstacle and if we are able to pursue something. We weigh what we know of our abilities. Frost took the road after weighing the decision because it (the road) longed for him. People need to be needed. The call of the less traveled road demonstrated need to Frost as well as challenge. So the result of taking that road less traveled helped Frost meet both need and challenge and in his life that resulted in a difference that might mean fulfillment or satisfaction.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The major theme in Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," is about making choices. The speaker in the poem in traveling and comes upon a cross roads or a fork-in-the-road. Here he or she much decide which way to continue traveling. One way looks as if it has been traveled many times before and is the safer, easier route to continue down. However, the other road does not like it has been used frequently and may be more problematic to travel on. He ends up selecting the path less traveled by, or the road that did not look as convenient, to continue his journey. He/she states that by selecting this path, it has "made all the difference." You could also interpret that as a theme. Not only is the theme about choice, but it about praising the choice of the nonconformist, someone who goes outside the box to think, a renegade or risk taker. Think of the saying, "what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." If this person selected the easy path, they would not have experienced any challenges, yet by choosing the path less traveled they are inviting obstacles and unforeseen adventure, which may make them stronger in character.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The theme of this poem centers around choices, and which ones bring us the fullest life as human beings.

In "The Road Not Taken," we see someone in the woods at the fork in the road...pondering which way would be the better one to travel.

The one path is one he has traveled before...so it would be safe, and easy to travel. The other path is unknown, and will be scary to travel because there will be more obstales in the way. The author chooses to take "the road less traveled", and he concludes that this has made "all the difference."

We assume then, that the moral or theme of the poem is that choosing individuality...stepping out of the comfort zone and being a nonconformist...following ones own heart and dreams...is what makes life full and rich.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial