person walking through a forest

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

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Why does the poet doubt his coming back?

In "The Road Not Taken," the speaker doubts that he will ever come back to this fork in the road because he knows he will continue to travel along the path of his choice. He realizes that after one makes a choice, one is unlikely to go back and make the alternative choice.

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Upon reaching a fork in the road during a walk in the woods, the speaker of "The Road Not Taken" struggles to determine which is the better path to take. Having weighed the two roads in front of him, he considers the permanence of the choice:

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

He would like to travel both paths, just to know with certainty where each will lead. Indeed, the speaker initially expresses his intention to return to take the alternative path "another day." However, at this moment, he realizes that once he starts down the path of his choice, it is unlikely that he will "ever come back."

The roads can be read as metaphors for choices in life, with the fork in the road being a metaphor for the decision itself. The speaker realizes that after making a choice, it is nearly impossible to know the outcome of the option he didn't choose. Life has a way of taking one down one path after another, and each choice thus changes one's final destination, making it impossible to return to the initial fork in the road to make a different choice.

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