person walking through a forest

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

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What are the poetic devices of the poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?

Some poetic devices included in "The Road Not Taken" are the assonance in the poem's first line, emphasizing the "o" sound in "roads" and "yellow," the alliteration in the third line of the second stanza with "wanted wear," and, within this same line, the personification in the road "it was grassy and wanted wear." The poem, overall, is a metaphor for the different directions one takes in life. 

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Paying attention to the imagery in "The Road Not Taken" actually reveals a meaning that some readers miss. People have a tendency to want to believe that they have led the more difficult lives and have made the more difficult choices in the various metaphorical forks in the road of their own lives. And perhaps that is why this poem is often misinterpreted.

The speaker uses imagery in the first stanza to help readers envision the choice:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

Two things are significant in the imagery here and are important as metaphors. The speaker isn't following his own path but a road. This is a path carved out by someone else, which follows the natural contour of the land. Many people have traveled this road before and many will follow; that's why it exists. Also important is the imagery inherent in yellow. This is autumn, a time of change—and also the beginnings of death in nature. The speaker is facing a season of change. The imagery at the end of this stanza sets up the choice he makes:

And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

The initial path he examines has an uncertain path. Covered by "undergrowth," the road turns and he can't tell where that destination will end.

So he takes the other road, which doesn't exactly support the more difficult choice. Check out the imagery when the speaker initially makes the choice regarding which path he will take:

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

The path he chooses is "fair," covered in grass (not rocks and boulders) and is inviting. Also important is that the two paths are worn equally. This is not the less traveled road. It is as equally traveled as the road he doesn't choose.

The speaker reinforces this idea with the imagery at the beginning of the third stanza:

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

Neither road shows the clearly less-traveled path. Both are covered in leaves which have not been disturbed.

Also notice how the language shifts to reflect an almost archaic and fanciful tone at the beginning of the final stanza:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

"Shall," "hence," and "ages and ages" has the same feel as "Once upon a time." The speaker slips into this almost fanciful language to remind the readers of the fantasy he has created about the "difficulty" of the path he has chosen.

The imagery and language Frost uses conveys a message that people often want to retell the glories of their most difficult choices and paths, but they fail (intentionally or unintentionally) the recall the accuracy in details of those choices. Also important is the fact that the title is "The Road Not Taken," not "The Hard Road I Took." The speaker tells "with a sigh" of his "road less traveled by," but all the while he is actually remembering "The Road Not Taken."

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The previous educators have thoroughly outlined most of the poetic devices in the poem, but none have yet written about Frost's choice of meter.

Frost employs an "abaab" rhyme scheme. This is a cinquain, or a poem or stanza composed of five lines. Cinquains are seen in limericks, for example, though those poems employ a different rhyme scheme.

As one previous educator mentioned, the road is a metaphor for the different "paths" one may take in life. Both were "worn," meaning that many others had taken the same path, or made a similar choice in life. 

Frost's choice of "morning" and autumn are also metaphoric. One's autumn years indicate late adulthood. "Morning" indicates a new beginning. Even late in life, we get chances or opportunities to make life-changing choices. 

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Literary terms and poetic devices allow a poet or author to enhance their writing. Examples include sound devices like alliteration or onomatopoeia and figurative language like metaphors and similes, which are comparisons that allow the reader to understand the subject matter on a broader scale and perhaps in terms the reader had not considered previously. Imagery is another kind of poetic device; it is used to embellish a developing mental picture that the reader can appreciate. Symbolism allows the reader to relate the poem to its real meaning rather than its literal meaning, and connotation allows the reader to make assumptions about the subject matter.

In “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost uses several poetic devices at his disposal. Alliteration is used subtly in "wanted wear" (the repeated w sound at the beginning of the words) and improves the musical quality of the poem. The poet creates an image for the reader of the paths which "equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black." This creates a peaceful image at odds with the difficult decision the speaker is trying to make.

The poem is clearly intended to convey a meaning far beyond its immediate scope. The decision here is quite significant, and Frost ensures that the reader understands the implications of choosing a path. "I doubted if I should ever come back" would have anyone rethinking his choice. The reader can relate to the narrator. The road functions both literally and as a symbol or metaphor; in the context of this walk in the woods, the road is just a path, but the reader is led to believe that it represents something more important—perhaps a life-changing decision. The wood with its "undergrowth" can reflect the narrator's confusion: he cannot see far down either path, which makes his decision all the more difficult.

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There are multiple poetic devices used in Robert Frost's poem The Road Not Taken.

In the first line, the poet used assonance. Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound within a line of poetry. In the first line,

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

the "o" sound is repeated in "roads" and "yellow."

In the eighth line,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear,

the author uses personification. Personification is the giving of human characteristics to non-human/non-living things. In this line, the path wanted wear. A path cannot want. Only humans can want. This qualifies as personification.

The poem as a whole is a metaphor. A metaphor is

a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to a person, idea, or object to which it is not literally applicable.

The poet is, therefore, comparing the paths in life to the choices one must make when reaching a crossroads. The poem speaks of the actual choices in life as roads one must choose to take. Metaphorically, the roads simply represent choices in life.

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