Introduction to The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost wrote “The Road Not Taken,” one of his best-known poems, in spring 1915 and sent a draft, under the title “Two Roads,” to the British poet Edward Thomas. The poem is about the speaker’s hesitancy in deciding which path to take while walking in the woods one day. According to critic David Orr, Thomas seems to have been the first person to misunderstand Frost’s canonical poem—a habit that has persisted in popular misreadings, which falsely infer that the speaker has indeed chosen the path “less traveled by” and that the decision has made a tangible difference in his life. Biographer Lawrance Thompson indicates that Frost may have modeled the poem’s speaker on Edward Thomas himself. In a 1953 address to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Frost said that the speaker is based on “a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other. He was hard on himself that way.”

“The Road Not Taken” was first published as the opening poem of Frost’s third collection, Mountain Interval (1916), alongside other well-known poems like “Out, Out—” and “Birches.” With its subtle irony and ambiguity, “The Road Not Taken” remains a rich account of indecision.

A Brief Biography of Robert Frost

Robert Frost (1874–1963) was an American poet who has achieved unprecedented name recognition in the United States. His best-known works include “The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” both of which have become synonymous with the genre of nature poetry. Frost, though, was much more than just a nature poet. “Home Burial,” for example, deals with overwhelming grief after the death of a child. “Fire and Ice,” while somewhat tongue-in-cheek, considers the apocalyptic end of the world. And some of his poems, such as “The Oven Bird,” are a complex treatment of a difficult rhyme scheme, proving that Frost could match anyone in form. Furthermore, Frost helped form the conception of Americans as tough, self-sufficient individuals. This New England native, often called the “Icon of Yankee Values,” remains an essential American poet.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken

"The Road Not Taken" is traditionally taken to mean that it can be better to take the less conventional path in life. In the poem, a man is walking through the woods, when he comes to a fork in the...

Latest answer posted December 13, 2020, 10:53 am (UTC)

6 educator answers

The Road Not Taken

The speaker of “The Road Not Taken” describes a moment when he encounters a fork in the road he is traveling on. It becomes clear that the two roads symbolize the choices one makes in life, the...

Latest answer posted August 31, 2020, 12:11 pm (UTC)

11 educator answers

The Road Not Taken

As with most pieces of literature, determining the "meaning" of a piece is a highly subjective process. Different readers can interpret a work differently; therefore, different readers will...

Latest answer posted October 31, 2020, 1:57 pm (UTC)

4 educator answers

The Road Not Taken

The speaker in "The Road Not Taken," who is not necessarily identical to the poet, is confused and self-contradictory about the choice he has made and his reasons for making it. Nonetheless, the...

Latest answer posted September 1, 2020, 2:48 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

"The Road Not Taken" relates to life because the poem rests on a central conceit or extended metaphor that compares a diverging path in the woods to the decisions people make in their lives. The...

Latest answer posted September 1, 2020, 11:09 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

In "The Road Not Taken," an important detail that contributes to the overall message of the poem is that the two roads are equally worn and equally traveled. Although the speaker hopes that later...

Latest answer posted September 1, 2020, 11:07 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

When faced with a fork in the road that splits into two separate paths, the speaker in Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” ultimately selects the second path. The speaker imagines that in the...

Latest answer posted September 1, 2020, 12:25 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Road Not Taken

Figurative language is when words are used to convey an idea beyond their literal meaning, usually by way of comparison. Figurative language is fundamentally metaphorical, allowing us to understand...

Latest answer posted September 1, 2020, 11:36 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is a poem about decision-making, and the richness of the poem lies in the way Frost considers the topic from two different angles. The first and most obvious...

Latest answer posted September 1, 2020, 5:32 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

The speaker of “The Road Not Taken” is traveling through the woods when he faces a fork in the road. He is thus faced with making a decision, and he weighs his options carefully, trying to...

Latest answer posted September 1, 2020, 11:18 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

The speaker opens the poem by providing some contextual details about the setting, noting that "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood." If we envision the speaker standing at this fork in the road,...

Latest answer posted August 31, 2020, 12:06 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

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...

Latest answer posted August 31, 2020, 11:05 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

In the poem "The Road Not Taken," the poet feels sorry because he cannot travel both roads at once. He recognizes that this is not possible, that he cannot be "one traveler" taking two separate...

Latest answer posted August 31, 2020, 11:41 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

In the first three stanzas, the speaker of the poem struggles with which path he should take in the woods. He agonizes over this decision, examining as many details as he can gather and then...

Latest answer posted August 31, 2020, 11:20 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

On one level, the speaker of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” expects that he will regret his decision. More specifically, he wishes he did not have to make a decision at all. In the opening...

Latest answer posted August 31, 2020, 12:58 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

The irony in “The Road Not Taken” is that the speaker admits that he plans to misrepresent his choice between the two roads when he tells the story in the future. Throughout the poem, the speaker...

Latest answer posted August 31, 2020, 12:25 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

At the beginning of Robert Frost's poem “The Road Not Taken,” the speaker stands at a fork in the road. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” he explains. He cannot take both, for he is only one...

Latest answer posted August 31, 2020, 1:54 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost's speaker says that he is sorry that he cannot travel both roads in the poem "The Road Not Taken." The speaker expresses a desire to take both the road he chooses and the road he does...

Latest answer posted August 31, 2020, 1:27 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

In Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” the two roads that the speaker must choose between are essentially the same. It is only his perspective that creates a difference between them. Having...

Latest answer posted August 31, 2020, 3:05 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” presents a forking road in a forest as a metaphor for the choices one makes in life, but the poem's inspiration was quite literal. The idea behind “The Road...

Latest answer posted August 31, 2020, 12:28 pm (UTC)

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Summary