The Road Not Taken Analysis

  • The Road Not Taken” is a popular poem that is often misinterpreted. While many understand the poem to mean that people’s decisions are important, it actually depicts that they are only relevant when they become part of the story people tell—to both others and themselves—about their lives.
  • The fork in the road is symbolic of any choice in life, but Frost makes it clear that the two paths are equally untraveled: both seem to have potential for fairly equal outcomes.
  • Structurally, the poem consists of four stanzas that each follow an abaab rhyme scheme.

Analysis

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"The Road Not Taken" is a much-loved poem whose true meaning often eludes readers. In fact, Robert Frost lamented that the poem was often taken so seriously when his intentions were actually to convey a bit of deception. In this poem, Frost uses the reflections of a speaker to express the conflicting nature of making decisions throughout life.

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In the opening line, the speaker places himself in a "yellow wood." Thus, the setting is autumn, a time of beautiful change as the heat and glare of summer gives way to new colors throughout the forest. This yellow wood immediately symbolizes one of the main themes of the poem: change is inevitable. As the speaker stands at this fork in the road, he looks down one as far as he can see. There is a sense here that visibility of this path is "long," yet it eventually disappears into a bend in some "undergrowth." Thus, he cannot determine with certainty where this particular path will lead him.

He decides to take the "other" path. At first, he notes that this path has "perhaps the better claim." Initially, it sounds as though the speaker chooses this path because it appears that the opportunities are greater on this "other" path. He then contradicts himself in the next two lines, noting,

Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same . . .

Frost uses imagery to convey that the speaker is not choosing the more difficult path. Conversely, he isn't choosing the "road less traveled," either: both paths seem to have potential for fairly equal (and equally common) outcomes. Both paths are equally untraveled, which is a point Frost wants to reinforce by repeating this idea with different imagery at the beginning of the next stanza:

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.

Frost employs subtle alliteration to highlight the similar nature of the paths; they "equally lay," which draws acute attention to their possibilities and visual representation. The yellow leaves in this wood cover the paths of both roads.

It is at this point that the speaker finally takes a breath. Until this point, there has been no ending punctuation, with the speaker's observations and reflections spilling over from line to line by use of enjambment, and from stanza to stanza with only a semicolon and a comma to end stanzas. This structure reflects the nature of decisions: sometimes they are rushed and impulsively made. Though the poem lingers on the nature of decisions themselves, the speaker doesn't seem to actually take a long time in making his particular decision; instead, he is faced with a choice, surveys his options, and proceeds fairly quickly. This sense of impulsivity is reflected in the structure thus far.

In the next line, the speaker's tone touches on a bit of whimsy.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

The use of the interjection at the beginning of the line followed by the exclamation point at the end is a bit melodramatic. He doubles back on this idea in the...

(The entire section contains 851 words.)

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