What is the meaning in the poem "The Road Not Taken"?

Expert Answers
lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Road Not Taken," the meaning of the poem is about a person having to choose between two roads. "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood" and the speaker is torn between which road is the best choice.

It is in the autumn of the speaker's life. He has to choose which road to travel. He analyzes both roads. Then he chooses the one less traveled by and claims that it has made all the difference.

Still, the speaker is analyzing his decision. He chose the road of nonconformity. He is a nonconformist. He traveled alone. The road he took held less distractions. Clearly, the speaker should be happy about the road he took, but he is still thinking about the road he didn't take. The speaker is wondering what the other road would have held for him. In fact, the speaker states that he will be telling this story with a sigh "somewhere ages and ages hence." There seems to be some sadness on the speaker's part about having to choose between the two roads:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

The speaker is sorry he could not travel both roads. And since "way leads on to way," he doubted he should ever come back and choose the other road. Truly, life is about choices and this is what the roads represent--choices. 

In the end, the speaker states that he took the road less traveled by and that has made the difference in his life. Sadly enough, he is telling it with a sigh:

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,
And that has made all the difference. 

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many of Frost's poems were autobiographical. He chose to live a life of simplicity and self-sufficiency, as one can see in such poems as "Mending Wall," "Two Tramps in Mud Time," and "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." He resembled Henry David Thoreau, another New Englander, in valuing peace of mind, freedom, and harmony with nature over material success. He once expressed the following opinion about writing:

Everything written is as good as it is dramatic. It need not declare itself in form, but it is drama or nothing.

Little dramas are to be found in many of his poems. Drama always involves conflict. In "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening," for example, we can feel that the speaker (Frost himself) is experiencing some sort of inner conflict. He would like to remain where he is, but he feels under pressure to go on because, as he says, he has "promises to keep." Some critics have assumed that he is thinking of walking into the woods and committing suicide by letting himself freeze to death. This may be a mistaken interpation.

In "The Road Not Taken," Frost creates a metaphor to describe how he had once been forced to make an important decision about his future. William James, famous psychologist, once said that we only really think when we come to what he called "crossroads situations" and have to make a choice. Evidently Frost chose simplicity and austerity as a New England farmer over what might have been a more lucrative career at the end of the road not taken.