What are the poetic techniques used in the poem, and how are they used?

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shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Robert Frost makes use of some classic symbolism and imagery in the poem “The Road Not Taken.” The idea of using a fork in the road to symbolize the making of an important decision is not unique to Frost, but he does an exceptional job of developing the symbol and imbuing it with some memorable imagery.

He establishes the symbolic theme of the poem immediately with his first line, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” He continues to talk about the roads throughout all four stanzas. Some students ask how we can be sure he is creating symbols, rather than just writing about two roads that he happens to see. The answer to that lies in the fourth and final stanza.

"I shall be telling this with a sigh/ Somewhere ages and ages hence:/ Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I/ I took the one less traveled by/ And that has made all the difference.”

Only a major decision would affect the speaker so deeply that he would think about it years and years later.

Frost’s imagery establishes the fact that the decision is being made later in life. The wood (meaning the woods, or forest) is yellow; therefore, the season is autumn. This correlates with middle age on the part of the speaker.

The third stanza supplies another important image:

"Both that morning equally lay/ In leaves no step had trodden black."

This expresses the idea that either road will be a road just for him—no one else has travelled it. In other words, his life is his own, a unique event.

One of the links below will lead you to a recording of Frost himself reading the poem.

Read the study guide:
The Road Not Taken

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