Why is the poem entitled "The Road not Taken"? What is the meaning of this poem?

The title of "The Road Not Taken" refers to times when we look back at important choices and wonder what would have happened if we had decided differently. The road stands for the narrator's life's journey, the two diverging paths indicate the two options he must choose between, and the woods and undergrowth are the complications and difficulties in life that make it hard to choose. The narrator emphasizes that once we make these important decisions they are usually irrevocable.

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The poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost is about the important choices we make in life and about how once we make these choices, we usually cannot go back and start again.

In the poem, the road represents the narrator's journey through life, and the woods represent the difficulties and complexities that inevitably befall him no matter what choices he makes. At the beginning of the poem, the narrator has reached a crucial moment at which he must make a decision before he can move on. He has two alternatives, and he takes a long time deciding which would be more favorable to him. They look similar, and ultimately seem worn down "really about the same." However, the narrator perceives that one side is "grassy and wanted wear." Although to an impartial observer the paths may seem about the same, this phrase tells us that to the narrator, this side maybe be fresher and more inviting for his particular individual circumstances.

After he has made his decision, he considers that perhaps he might be able to come back and try the path he has not chosen "another day," but he realizes even as he contemplates this that "way leads on to way." In other words, he doubts that he will return to this point, because once he makes this decision, the road of life will lead him to other forks where he has to continue to make choices.

Finally, the narrator considers that far into the future, when he is relating the story to others, he will tell them that he chose "the one less traveled," and that choice has made a difference in his life. However, he will say this "with a sigh," as if he regrets not getting a chance to go back and see where choosing the other path might have brought him. The poem is entitled "The Road Not Taken" to commemorate those moments when we look back with regret, or at least curiosity, to important choices we have made in life and wonder how things would have turned out if we had made the other choice.

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The previous posts helped to illuminate much of the complexity of this poem.  The title of the poem brings to light the powerful and problematic condition of choice that human beings endure in the process of self definition.  The idea of a literal fork in the road, where two equally desirable, but ultimately incompatible courses of action pit an individual in the unenviable predicament of having to choose reveals much about the essence of individual identity.  This is a critical element in Frost's work.  In examining the choice made by the speaker, the choice "that has made all the difference," one begins to fully graps the thematic implications of making choices and agonizing decisions.  While we might be plagued with wondering what might have been, the speaker suggests that we, as individuals, must make some level of peace with the choices we make for their are ours, and in being our own, must represent the type of decisions "that make all the difference."  The title being the sum total of what was not undertaken reveals and underscores the importance of being content with the decisions we make.

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Frost's poem is called 'The Road Not Taken' as he is reflecting on the decisions and choices we reject in life against those options we select. In this extended metaphor, Frost explains that the two roads he faced were 'really about the same' and that his decision was to follow the less worn path - perhaps the less conventional pathway in life. The decision was not an easy one: he tells us 'long I stood' as he makes his choice, and the final stanza is filled with regret: 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. Frost reflects wistfully on his decision, and it is 'The Road Not Taken' - the path he did not follow and the direction in life that he did not pursue, that he is preoccupied with.
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This is Frost in his own words:

"One stanza of 'The Road Not Taken' was written while I was sitting on a sofa in the middle of England: was found three or four years later, and I couldn't bear not to finish it. I wasn't thinking about myself there, but about a friend who had gone off to war, a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn't go the other. He was hard on himself that way."

Bread Loaf Writers' Conference August 1953


Two roads that were pretty much the same, two paths of life, two choices, presented themselves to the narrator. He chose one of the two paths:

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.


That's our lot in this brief existence of ours: we make a few decisions early on, then way leads on to way, and pfft, we're seventy. We know the life we've chosen and lived, but the other life, the road not taken, we'll never have a chance to know where that one may have taken us.

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