What literary techniques does Frost employ in "The Road Not Taken?"

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karaejacobi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" features a first-person speaker recounting a personal anecdote. This means that the speaker is using the first person pronoun "I" and telling a story about a personal experience. These features also make the poem a narrative poem, as it tells a story, rather than a lyric poem.

Further, Frost uses simple diction, alliteration, and a basic rhyme scheme of ABAAB CDCCD EFEEF GHGGH. The word choice is straightforward. Alliteration can be found in some of the lines; for example, "Because it was grassy and wanted wear" (line 8), repeats the beginning "w" sound. 

The speaker describes the two roads using imagery. He discusses each road in turn, especially focuses on how "worn" each road is, meaning how many times travelers have chosen that road over the other. The first three lines present the central conflict of the poem: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, / And sorry I could not travel both, / And be one traveler, long I stood" deciding which road to take. Once he makes his decision, the speaker expresses this with an exclamatory statement: "Oh, I kept the first for another day!" (12). 

The poem's mood takes a dark turn near the end, when the speaker ponders the irreversible consequences of choosing one path over another. He "doubted if [he] should ever come back," and this doubt means that his decision is irreversible (15). He also says that in the future, he "shall be telling this with a sigh" (16). The speaker's reflections could be said to symbolize or could be said to serve as a metaphor for any decision we make in our lives: ultimately, we choose one path, and we cannot go back and reverse our decision. The choice "has made all the difference" (20). 

rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost is a narrative poem that uses the literary elements of first person narration, the story arc, symbolism, and analogy. The poem tells a story in the voice of its only character. The poem's story arc consists of the following:

Inciting incident: the narrator comes to a fork in the road.

Conflict: the narrator must decide which way to go.

Rising action: the narrator evaluates both paths.

Climax: the narrator decides: "Oh, I kept the first for another day!"

Falling action/denouement: narrator doubts if he will ever come back and reflects on his decision.

Theme: taking the route less traveled can impact one's life immensely.

The symbol (or metaphor) of the poem is the diverging path; it represents decision points in life. 

The symbol actually becomes an analogy, which is an extended metaphor with corresponding parts. The diverging paths represent a decision point, evaluating the pros and cons of each path is the decision-making process, and proceeding down one path is the choice a person makes which makes it unlikely that he or she "should ever come back." After a decision is made, there is often a "sigh" where one wonders if the correct action was chosen. Years later a person can look back and see how that one decision affected many things in his or her life.

By telling a simple story that is an analogy for the decision-making process we all are familiar with, Frost created a memorable and meaningful poem that has been touching the hearts of readers for 100 years.

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The Road Not Taken

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