The Road Not Taken Explanation

What is the whole explanation for the poem, "The Road Not Taken"?

Expert Answers
Michael Foster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

The two roads symbolize, obviously, the choices that the speaker faces in life. He cannot take both, as much as he would like to, so he spends time in comtemplation and observation. He cannot see far, not far enough to make a confident decision as to the better nature of one over the other. The fact that it is a "yellow wood" perhaps indicates that, as fall is often a symbol of the waning years of one's life, the speaker is past his youth, when he can make a choice with the confidence that it is correctible at a later time. The choice he makes will be permanent, highly impacting the rest of his fast-disappearing days. As one approaches middle age, he comes to grip with the fact that his time for hopes and dreams is past; he must come to grips with the reality created by the choices he has made.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

Here the speaker seems to be contradictory. He has made a choice, but is still unsure about it. It is "just as fair" yet it has "the better claim."  Then again, there is no appreciable difference as the "passing there / Had worn them really about the same." He is still trying to convince himself that either choice would have been acceptable (just in case this path proves ill-advised). He cannot quite make up his mind about the wisdom of his decision.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

The speaker is still in the process of convincing himself, even to the point of self-delusion. He tries to tell himself that, should this road proves not the right one, he will have the chance to go back to take the other road. Yet, in a road of complete honesty, he knows that life will probably not allow him the choice to return, even if he should wish to. He has transitioned to the point where he realizes that his youth is past and he must take up the responsility and reality of adulthood.

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

He has come to the decision that, for good or ill, the choice he has made will be permanent and highly effecting of his life.  He looks ahead to to time when he can look back and tell that the choice he made, whether wisely or unwisely, was the point at which his life's path was set.

bruno123 | Student


the first stanza states that in a point of the speaker's journey two roads diverged and he didn't know which to take. At the point of divergence the speaker stood and started observing both the roads. He took the first one and saw it carefully. He inspected the as far as his eyes permitted him to.

after inspecting the first road he moved on to the second road. he saw that the second road was more grassy and lacked usage. Also the second road appealed to him more than the first road did.

but however he felt that both the roads were same. As, on both the roads the leaves which had fallen were unstepped. however, he decided to travel through the second road. The speaker knew that his choice might not lead him to his desired destination and that he might not get a chance to come back.

The speaker took a brave decision to choose the road which was not preferred by travellers. In the future the speaker woulbe able to tell proudly that at a point of his journey he took the road which was less travelled by travellers which has made all the difference in his life.

this poem teaches us to make right decisions in our life . It also states that oppurtunities once lost are lost forever. We have to face the consequences of choices made by us. This poem also symbolizes life in a way.

by bruno123,(India,grade7)








epollock | Student


In this classic and famously popular Robert Frost poem, the diverging roads are pretty similar; the speaker chose the one less worn, as “having perhaps the better claim,” but three times we are told that the difference was negligible: “just as fair”; “Though as for that, the passing there / Had worn them really about the same”; “equally.”

Although a reason is given for the choice (“it was grassy and wanted wear”), it would seem that there was a doubt that there really was a clear basis for choosing. Certainly there is no moral basis. One may feel that had the speaker chosen the other path, the ending of the poem would have been the same; that is, he would remember the alternative path and would fantasize that he might someday return to take it, and would at the same time know that he would not relearn. And so he would find that it too “has made all the difference.”

The sigh imagined in the last stanza is not to be taken as an expression of regret for a life wasted, but as a semi-comic picture of the speaker envisioning himself as an old man, wondering how things would have turned out if he had made a different choice—which is not at all to imply a rejection of the choice he did make.

Don't take the poem too seriously and to press it too hard for a moral, for example, that Frost says we should choose the “less traveled,” the unconventional, path. The first two lines of the last stanza are playful in their tone.

Frost wrote the poem after returning to the United States from England. In England, his friend and fellow poet Edward Thomas liked to take Frost on woodland walks and then fretted that perhaps he should have chosen a different path, which would have revealed different flora. This bit of biography does not prove that the poem cannot refer to moral choice, but it may help to ease up on the highly moral interpretations that many people are prone to make.

cristy311 | Student

Our speaker has come to a fork in a path in the woods. It's fall, and the leaves are turning colors. He's unsure which way to go, and wishes he could go both ways. He looks down one path as far as he can see, but then he decides to take the other. He thinks the path he decides to take is not quite as worn as the other one, but really, the paths are about the same, and the fallen leaves on both look pretty fresh.
The speaker reflects on how he plans to take the road that he didn't take another day, but suspects that he probably won't ever come back. Instead, far off in the future, he'll be talking about how his decision was final and life changing.

Of the two roads the speaker says “the passing there / Had worn them really about the same.” In fact, both roads “that morning lay / In leaves no step had trodden black.” Meaning: Neither of the roads is less traveled by.
Ironic as it is, this is also a poem infused with the anticipation of remorse. Its title is not “The Road Less Traveled” but “The Road Not Taken.” Even as he makes a choice (a choice he is forced to make if does not want to stand forever in the woods, one for which he has no real guide or definitive basis for decision-making), the speaker knows that he will second-guess himself somewhere down the line—or at the very least he will wonder at what is irrevocably lost: the impossible, unknowable Other Path. But the nature of the decision is such that there is no Right Path—just the chosen path and the other path. What are sighed for ages and ages hence are not so much the wrong decisions as the moments of decision themselves—moments that, one atop the other, mark the passing of a life. This is the more primal strain of remorse.

penemra | Student

The literal meaning of this poem by Robert Frost is pretty obvious. A traveler comes to a fork in the road and needs to decide which way to go to continue his journey. After much mental debate, the traveler picks the road "less traveled by."
The figurative meaning is not too hidden either. The poem describes the tuogh choices people stand for when traveling the road of life. The words "sorry" and "sigh" make the tone of poem somewhat gloomy. The traveler regrets leaves the possibilities of the road not chosen behind. He realizes he probably won't pass this way again.


Read the study guide:
The Road Not Taken

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question