What is a short summary of "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this poem the speaker (let's assume he's a man), is out for a morning walk during the autumn. He comes to a place where the road he is following splits into two paths, and he has to decide which way to go. Both ways look equally appealing to him, and he wishes he could "travel both and be one traveler." One of the ways is "grassy and wanted wear," so it is the one fewer people have used, although not to a huge extent because he also says that "as for that the passing there had worn them really about the same." No one has traveled on either road on this particular morning. The speaker makes his decision to take the second road, the one that "was grassy and wanted wear." He thinks at first he will go down the other road some other time, but then he realizes that, since one road leads to another and another, he will probably never come back to take the first road in the future. The speaker then fast-forwards in his imagination to some day in the distant future when he will remember and talk about the decision he has just made. He thinks he will tell the tale "with a sigh" and that he will realize that taking "the road less traveled by" is what will have "made all the difference."

The last stanza shows that the poem is about more than taking a walk in the woods. The poet obviously means the poem to be taken metaphorically. The walk represents one's life journey, and the forked path represents a critical decision point. Many people interpret the poem to mean that the speaker believes his choice was the right one and that his sigh is one of contentment; in this interpretation the speaker believes going down a path of nonconformity results in greater gains in the end. The poem is ambiguous, however, and allows the opposite interpretation. The speaker's sigh could be one of regret, and choosing to buck the crowd or ignore tradition could end up having undesirable consequences. Another interpretation is that the poem satirizes people who agonize about every little decision in life, which gives the poem a lighter feel.