How is the characterization of the speaker related to the setting in the poem "The Road Not Taken?"
Frost provides the answer to your question about setting in the poem’s opening line: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” The setting is the woods, in this case with paths strewn with yellow leaves. When the speaker looks agonizingly at the two paths, telling us he is “sorry [he] could not travel both,” we realize that the woods and, in particular, the roads, are symbols for choices in life. This should be apparent from the simple fact that we COULD go back and travel a second literal road. Like choices in life, the roads before the speaker are not clearly visible. He looks as far as he can see “To where it bent in the undergrowth.” Similarly, when we are planning choices in our future, we can only see the start of each possible path and have no way of knowing where it will lead.
The speaker is indecisive and looks to see which path is more worn. That is, he wonders which choice in life more people have taken. He takes the one that he at first thinks is “grassy and wanted wear,” even though he realizes that the passing –the fork in the road—“had worn them really about the same.” No matter how much he tries to puzzle out his decision, he can’t find a clue to help him make the better choice.
When he says he “kept the first for another day,” he realizes—as we do along with him—that sometimes we can go back in life to a choice we had abandoned. But it is not likely. Our speaker goes on to say that “knowing how way leads on to way / I doubted if I should ever come back.” Once we’ve made some of our choices in life, it is often hard, even impossible, to go back and start over. As the poem concludes, the speaker is in the future, telling his story “with a sigh.” We always wonder if we made the right choice. The famous closing line, stating that the road he did choose “has made all the difference” is ambiguous. He can’t really know what the other choice would have meant, but he will always wonder.
I think that the speaker and the natural setting in the poem are very similar to one another. The first, and in my mind most pressing similarity, is that both are filled with complexity and a lack of simplicity. Appearances can deceive, and they certainly do in this instance. The speaker appears to be composed about the basics that two roads separated and he selected one of them to take. In the same way, the natural setting looks, from outward appearances, beautiful and, in a sense, easy to assess. Yet, as further reflection indicates, challenges in understanding both emerge. The speaker comes across as being able to be seen in a variety of ways regarding his choice. On one hand, there can be a case made that the speaker is content with his choices, and only remarking that there was a point where a critical choice was made. On the other hand, this very analysis can prove to be a point of melancholic longing for that which was not chosen. In the end, the speaker appears complex and intricate in the decision made and in one's assessment of him. The natural setting of the poem is much the same, where the elements featured are not easy to dissect or to fully ascertain. Similar to the issue of choice, one thinks that they "have it figured out," only to realize that more exists and the only certaintiy is that there is a lack of clarity present. In both nature and the narrator's need to choose, there is ambiguity and doubt which ends up "making all the difference."