person walking through a forest

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

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What does the phrase "way leads on to way" mean in "The Road Not Taken"?

Quick answer:

The phrase "way leads on to way" in "The Road Not Taken" suggests that life's choices lead to further decisions and consequences, making it difficult to return to past opportunities. This reflects on the irrevocability of decisions and the progression of life that moves forward, often closing doors to previous paths and opportunities.

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"...Way leads on to way." 
 Life seems to have a way of bringing us to the end of one road, and forces us to start all over on an unfamiliar, sometimes uncomfortable way--a brand new ballgame.

Often things are not the way we hoped they would be, and if we’re not careful we find ourselves wishing we could go back—back to the past, back to our comfort zone.

In her epic novel, Gone With the Wind, the title captures a main idea in the novel.  The world of the old South (the past life) is gone—“It’s gone with the wind.” Mitchell has Grandma Fontaine, an old woman with an acerbic tongue, talking about the defeats and disappointments of the Civil War. Grandma Fontaine exclaims, “The whole world can’t lick us….But we can lick ourselves—by longing for things we ain’t got any more and by remembering too much.” 

As long as we keep looking back, continue to nurse our wounds we will not make progress. There comes a time to dress the wound, bind it up with faith in God’s providence and let it begin to heal. It reminds me of Vince Lombardi’s words to his defeated football team, “Okay, men. Sack up your guts; let’s get going.”  

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When reading Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," the time-worn expression about the "window of opportunity" comes to mind.  Once a person has passed up an opportunity,  a commitment to another direction ("way") other decisions and choices are consequent upon that first selection of life's path; therefore, returning to the opportunity is impossible and the "window" is closed forever to the person. The first decision is irrevocable.

Frost's expression of "knowing how way leads on to way," has a tone of the rue of many who reflect upon the opportunities that they have lost in their lives.

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This poem really is about the choices we make in life. If you look at it from that perspecitve "way leads on to way" means that one choice we make leads to a set of other choices and events and, really, there is no going back to make the same choice again.

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