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

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kiwi's profile pic

kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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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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jseligmann | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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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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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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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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kc4u | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Whenever you travel and reach a point of bifurcation--two roads inviting you-- and you fumble as to which of the two should be taken, you are like the traveller in Robert Frost's poem, The Road not Taken. Whichever way you choose, you will always regret that the road not taken would have been a better choice.

Frost himself referred to this poem as 'very tricky'. If the roads being taken implies the journey of life, and the traveller is the Everyman, Frost's poem is about 'choice' as well as the irony involved in making a 'choice'. One of the two roads appears to be better than the other, but your experience of travel leads to doubt and disillusion as you 'sigh' to indicate that the other road would have been better. Every choice is tantalising; every choice brings in a sense of inadequacy. The irony of not taking one road, and choosing the road 'less travelled by' lies at the core of Frost's poem.

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jdcpurple7 | eNotes Newbie

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The poem is entitled the road not taken because he chose which road he was going to take and the one he didn't choose was the road he didn't take.

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