What is the theme between Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken" and "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening"?

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Both of these famous poems by Robert Frost could be interpreted in many ways, but one common theme seems to be choices—especially how we feel about our choices after the fact. We're normally programmed to think that in any given situation, the options are good/bad or right/wrong (or sometimes wrong/even...

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Both of these famous poems by Robert Frost could be interpreted in many ways, but one common theme seems to be choices—especially how we feel about our choices after the fact. We're normally programmed to think that in any given situation, the options are good/bad or right/wrong (or sometimes wrong/even worse). Frost's poems portray something similar—people trying to catch that elusive correct answer to a question they're asking.

In "The Road Not Taken," a man comes to a fork in the road and wonders which path he should take. He struggles for a moment, eventually deciding to take the one "less traveled by," although the poem also states that

. . . the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

The important thing to note, however, is that even as the man makes his decision (not to mention later in his life), he has still not let go of the choice. He wonders which road to take, he wonders whether he'll ever be back to try the other one, and even looking back on the moment, he questions whether he made the right call.

In "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," the choice is less obvious, but similarly poignant. There, a man stops on his journey through the woods and takes in his surroundings. His horse, who seems to be frightened on "the darkest evening of the year," wants to go on, shaking the harness. It's hard to tell whether the rider would prefer to stay and look at the snow falling, because it's implied he doesn't really have a choice—or he doesn't believe he has one.

But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep . . .

As said before, the poems seem to speak of choices and how we handle them. If we apply the simple choices in the poems to larger pivotal points in life, they raise some intriguing issues. In "The Road Not Taken," the man is so obsessed with making the right choice that he seems to completely forget to just enjoy the road he did choose. Maybe taking the well-traveled road would have been better—this could be a metaphor for never learning from someone else's mistakes. The question, though, is that if we can never go back to the fork in the road and choose again, does it matter?

"Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" is kind of the opposite of that. The speaker in that poem doesn't believe he has a choice whether or not to go on. The horse is restless, and he has made promises. Once again, the speaker's mistake is not that he made an objectively wrong choice—it's that he doesn't seem to recognize the possibility of a choice at all.

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A common theme between the two poems is regret. In "The Road Not Taken," the narrator comes to a fork in a road in the woods and has to make a choice to go one way or the other. He regrets that he can't take both roads at once. He says he is "sorry I could not travel both / And be one traveler."

In the second poem, the narrator is so awed by the beauty of a snowfall in the woods that he stops for a few minutes to watch the flakes come down. This confuses his horse, who doesn't understand why he won't move forward toward his destination. The narrator regrets that he can't stay longer watching this beautiful scene, but he has places to go, and so moves on.

In both poems, the narrators regret that they can't be in two places at once, which reflects the choices we all have to make.

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