person walking through a forest

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

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In the poem "The Road Not Taken", what might have happened if the traveler chose differently?

Quick answer:

If the traveler in "The Road Not Taken" had chosen differently, the outcome might still have been satisfactory due to his optimistic disposition. However, the poem's purpose is to highlight the significance of life's decisions and their personal implications. The traveler might have been less content on the more traveled path, given his preference for solitary discovery.

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Of course, this is a matter of opinion and speculation. The speaker tells us at the end of the poem that taking the less traveled road has made all the difference. This implies that it mattered what choice the traveler made, but tellingly, he does not specify what the difference was.

As the speaker looks both ways at the fork in the road, he notes that the roads are not much different. In fact, he says, neither road has been travelled on that morning:

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Because the roads are more or less the same, my belief is that the traveller would probably have been as satisfied with the other road. To me, the path in life you take is less important than your temperament and how you deal with the obstacles you encounter. If you an optimist, you are likely to be happy with a variety of choices. If you are a pessimist, no matter what you do, you might not be happy.
This traveller strikes me as an optimist. After all, he is pleased with both choices, saying one road is "just as fair" as the other. Therefore, I think he would have reported happily about the other path too. If the road taken is a metaphor for life's journey, I believe he would reported he had a happy life taking a more conventional route.
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I think the purpose of the poem is to make the reader consider the impact of decisions made during life. My interpretation of what will happen as a result of the poet's decision to take the road less traveled isn't as important as that every reader finds his/her own meaning.

In answer to your question, however, I think the traveler would have been disappointed if the choice had been to take the more traveled path. In reading the poem, I think the traveler enjoys time to discover and experience on his/her own, without lots of company along the way. Therefore, I don't think the traveler would have enjoyed the trip as much if it had not been taken on "the road less traveled."

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