Interpret the poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost falls into the category of masterful writing.  This beautiful lyric poem provides a reader with two layers of meaning: literal and figurative interpretations.

The literal meaning of the poem simplistically describes a conundrum for the narrator/traveler. He is in the woods on a fall morning,  and he  comes to a fork in the road.  Both roads are similar although one looks a little less traveled on; and he chooses that one.  Knowing that he probably will never go this way again, the narrator states:

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

In the last stanza, the narrator  determines that a long time in the future [possibly  to his grandchildren], he will retell the story of how he stood at a "y" in the road, took the one that looked like it had been used less, and that made a big difference to him.

The poem has a deeper symbolic meaning. Frost uses these metaphors to give the figurative interpretation:

The yellow woods represent the man's life...where he finds himself at this time

The fork in the road which diverge represent...the choices and decisions that a person faces in his life

His decision is difficult.  When he looks into his future, he cannot see beyond the bend or what he will face in life. Both paths or choices are similar. They both have comparable qualities [It is hard to know what the actual variations of the choices are since Frost does not tell us what the actual decision encompasses in the man's life.]

The difficulty lies in distinguishing which is the better path to choose. However, a decision must be made, so he selects the one that looks like it might be better based on fewer people had elected to go down that path.

Speaking to a future time when he will tell this story, he will tell it with a sigh [ The sigh implies an emotion which may mean with regret or relief]. 

He had a decision to make about some important aspect of his life -- career,  education, marriage, medical issue--the reader does not know; however, the choice he made, for good or bad, made a big difference in his life.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

The reader can only wish that   Frost had shared what this life altering decision was!