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

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.

jerseygyrl1983 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.