The Road Not Taken Questions and Answers
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...

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Robert Frosts’ “The Road Not Taken” uses allegory, repetition, rhyme, enjambment, and assonance to tell the story of a traveler who must decide on a path when they find themselves at a fork in the road. On the surface the poem may seem to be about a walk in the woods, but a further analysis of the poetic devices reveals a deeper meaning.

The most prominent poetic device used in the poem is allegory. The poem tells the story of a literal journey taken by the narrator where they had to decide on what path to take without knowing where the paths lead. Through the use of other devices that are discussed below, it’s apparent that Frost is using the story of a walk in the woods to express the difficulties and uncertainties that are faced in life. Each choice made in life can produce a multitude of outcomes. There is no control over what’s to come, but decisions must be made regardless.

Rhyme is used throughout the poem to underscore the tension of the narrator’s choice. Every stanza in the poem follows an ABAAB rhyme scheme:

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; (Stanza 1.1-5)

The use of rhyme has two effects. First, the switch from the A word to the B word highlights the uncertainty of the narrator. Just as the rhyme switches back and forth, so does the narrator’s opinion on which road he should take. On the other hand, the continuity of the rhyme scheme lightens the mood of the poem. The poem may feel stressed with the narrator spending much of it discerning which path to take, but the rhyme stays the same through the final stanza where the narrator expresses contentment with the final decision.

Repetition is used in the first and fourth stanzas to emphasize the importance of the fork in the road. The poem begins with “Two woods diverged in a yellow wood,” and repeats the same phrase in line two of the fourth stanza. In the poem, the narrator is recounting a past experience. The repetition of this particular line signifies the importance of the decision because it has stuck with them long after the walk. Moreover, the narrator is not attempting to prove that the path was better; rather that experience of choosing the path was significant.

Enjambment, the lack of punctuation that causes lines to run into each other, is used at least once in each stanza. This creates a feeling of uneasiness as the narrator second-guesses his choice on what path to take. There is a sense of worry as if he is hurrying his decision: “And both that morning equally lay/ In leaves no step had trodden black” (stanza 3.1-2). The lack of punctuation makes it hard to discern between the two lines just as the lack of markings on the path make it difficult for the narrator to distinguish which has been traveled more.

Lastly, Frost uses assonance with the “o” sound in the first line of the poem. Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound that draws attention to the words. “Two,” “roads,” “yellow,” and “woods,” all have the same vowel sound (Stanza 1.1). It is clear that this phrase is important because it is repeated in line 3 of the fourth stanza. Further, the use of both poetic devices in the same line signals that the meaning behind the path in the woods is critical to the overall themes of the poem.