Why does Robert Frost use nature in his poems (especially in "The Road Not Taken")?

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dule05 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Assistant Educator

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Frost's treatment of nature in his poems greatly differs from the one presented in Romanticism. Poets like Wordsworth glorified nature and thought it consisted of elements which were divine. Frost, in contrast, utilizes nature as a symbol of man's relation to the world he dwells in. Nature is used as a background of his poems and as an analogy to a complex human issue. Through nature and its elements, Frost desires to illustrate a more complex situation or problem that we contend with in our life.

To illustrate this, we can refer to one of his most famous poems - "The Road Not Taken." The poem is set in the woods in autumn, and the speaker comes to a fork in the road and has to decide which path he should choose. He analyzes the appearance of the two roads in front of him and wants to pick the one which is grassier, because it means it is less traveled. Although the poem seems to be about two paths in the yellow woods and the way they look, if we go beyond the literal meaning, we can see that Frost talks about life and dilemmas we are all faced with. The two paths symbolize the paths we take in life and how each path can offer something which will change our life for good. Once the speaker chooses a path, he cannot go back to the other path:

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.

What this symbolically means is that once we make a choice, we cannot go back a point when we were able to choose between certain options. Instead, we have to deal with the outcome of the choice we made. So, Frost focuses on the inevitability of making an important choice in life. Although the poem may be interpreted as a tale about two roads which diverge in the yellow woods, we can view this natural scene symbolically and realize that the focus is not on the beauty and importance of nature, but on human life and its concerns.

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