What is the meaning of Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken?"

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this poem, a traveler comes to a fork in a road and must decide which way he wants to go. He is "sorry [he] could not travel both [roads]." He stares for a long time down one of the roads.

In stanza two, he examines the other road. In stanza three, he picks the second road. We know this because he says: "Oh, I kept the first [road] for another day!" In saying this, he reveals his desire to go down both roads. He rationalizes his choice to himself by saying, in essence, I'll come back and explore that other road another day.

However, even as he says this to himself, he acknowledges a truth: "I doubted if I should ever come back." Life, he understands, has a way of interfering with our plans. Once we make a decision, it heads us in a certain direction.
In the fourth and final stanza, he ruminates that he will be telling people for a long time about how he came to the fork in the road and had to make a choice. He will tell people that
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The final couplet suggests that the choices we make matter. The roads can be seen as a metaphor for times when we come to a place in life where we face two options, both of which look reasonable. The poem also suggests that because the traveler took the road "less traveled," he had a set of experiences most people wouldn't have had, and that has been important to him.