What is the speaker’s attitude towards what he is describing? How do you think that the reader is supposed to react to this poem?
"Sentences are not different enough to hold the attention unless they are dramatic...All that can save them is the speaking tone of voice some how entangled in the words and fastened to the page for the ear of the imagination." (Robert Frost)
Frost's own theory of "the sound of sense," that which is "the abstract sound of sense is from voices behind a door that cuts off the words," contradicts the idea that Frost left his poems open for varying interpretations. Frost poetics scholar Carole Thompson writes that Frost chose his words in such a way--according with his theory of the sound of sense--that everyone who reads them, reads them with the same meaning and dramatic interpretation: "Frost writes in such a way that he makes you say the poem a certain way."
Frost also insists on the drama in a sentence, as the first quote above shows. In short, the poetic speaker feels the same way he expects the reader to react. I'd challenge the idea that in this poem Frost is trying tell the reader what choice they should make. Rather, he is expressing a dramatic recounting of the choices he has made. He wants the reader to feel the moment of introspection; the challenge of possibilities; the epiphany of choice; and the reflection of a life well lived on a road less traveled: in a way, this is Frost's apologetic for becoming a poet.
Like others, I have usually read the poem as an implied commendation of taking the poem less traveled. However, this poem has been variously interpreted, and one of the real rewards of reading criticism is to see how different readers can take the same evidence and use it to argue different points. Reading different points of view -- even if you disagree with them -- is often illuminating. Here's a link that may be useful: http://books.google.com/books?id=NRJR5dI10_oC&pg=PA132&dq=robert+frost+road+not+taken&hl=en&ei=8vyYTuTtGaTosQKno5ynBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CGUQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=robert%20frost%20road%20not%20taken&f=false
With the narrator as Edward Thomas, a friend of Robert Frost's that debated which path they should walk upon together, the speaker rues to the end of the poem that he could not make more than one choice-- "I shall be telling this with a sigh." Frost seems to be satirizing his friend throughout the poem as the speaker maintains his typically indecisive self-debate to the end.
Again, I feel as though pohnpei offers a wonderful point. The poem does not seem to offering advice about which road to take; instead, the choice of which road to take is of the utmost importance.
As litteacher points out, interpretations are left to the reader. Each reader brings something very different to a reading. Many times, author intent is passed over because the poem may move the reader to interpret it a way different than the author intended. Therefore, this seems to be the more important fact--what the reader gets out of it.
I know this poem is controversial. In my opinion, all poems are interpreted largely based on the reader's experiences. I agree with number 6, that a poem that allows for a variety of responses is great. Honestly, I still prefer the notion that the poem is based on deciding for yourself what direction you want to take, and not being afraid to try something that others haven’t tried.
One of the beauties of poetry is that a well-written poem allows every reader to find his/her personal interpretation, and The Road Not Taken certainly fits that requirement. For myself, I find a confirmation of the value of taking "the road less traveled" in the poem, in spite of the "sigh" of regret that it's not possible to follow both paths. In life, as in the poem, we can only be in one place at a time and are usually not able to recreate situations and follow another plan at a later date. Too bad, maybe, but that's reality.
I think that this poem is about how we make decisions and we think that they are important even when they are not. The speaker tells us these choices are the same. One is "just as fair." The people walking had "worn them really about the same."
The speaker is saying that "ages and ages hence" he will look back and he will say his choice made the difference and that he took the road less traveled, but there really was no such thing. Neither road was less traveled. He's just going to look back and think his choice was important.
The whole thing is about how we think our decisions are important even when they aren't.
I agree that the most common interpretation of this poem is that it suggests that taking the road less traveled is the better choice, and like post #2 said, encourages readers not to follow the crowd.
I however disagree that this is the message of the poem. Ultimately, I think the poem is simply a life commentary, and is not presenting any advice at all. It suggests that in every opportunity we have to make a decision, after making the first choice we think we might come back and see where the other choice would have taken us ("kept the first for another day"). But "as way leads on to way" it always turns out that we never go back and try the other road. There just isn't time.
I'm not sure that the speaker is lamenting bad choices or acting as a wise sage to those younger and encouraging well thought decisions. I personal see this as a simple commentary of a universal life experience: making decisions defines the road we walk in life the journey provides little to no opportunity for going back.
Let us remember that the speaker in the final stanza talks about how he will be telling of this event "with a sigh" years hence. #2 is right in the way that Frost leaves the message of this poem deliberately ambiguous. To me, the way in which the two roads are actually shown to be pretty much identical should lead us to the conclusion that this is a poem about the big choices in life and how they metaphorically lead us down paths without hope of return. There is a sense of nostalgia then and of the possibilities of different lives that we could have had if we had followed other roads.
It's difficult for me not to read this poem as advising the reader to choose the path seldom taken, but I would bet the response of each individual is different. Typically, I hear it interpreted as "don't follow the crowd and you'll be better off", and I do think that is what Frost would intend us to get out of it. I also think he would like the fact that his choice of phrasing leaves the poem open to different reactions.