person walking through a forest

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

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What figurative language is used in "The Road Not Taken"?

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In "The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost uses figurative language, such as metaphors and symbolism. The "two roads" represent two life choices, and the "yellow wood" signifies autumn, possibly reflecting the narrator's age. The chosen path initially seems more appealing, representing the allure of new opportunities, but the narrator later realizes both options were equally good. The poem also employs symbolism, personification, and onomatopoeia, infusing deeper meaning and human characteristics into non-human elements.

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Robert Frost uses "the road" as a metaphor for a course not taken in life. In the first line, the narrator recalls his fateful choice: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood." "Two roads" are a metaphor for two options. The "yellow wood" signifies an autumn light. Frost's decision to set the moment in the Fall could be a metaphor for a narrator that is in his or her "autumn years."

Like many of those faced with two good options but forced to choose one, the narrator expresses sorrow that he could not choose both—we can only walk down one path. 

In the second stanza, he muses that he initially believed that his choice was the better of the two but later thought differently:

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that, the passing there

Had worn them really about the same...

The option we choose is always less appealing after it is chosen, for we wonder about the choice that we did not make. Thus, in the end, the narrator realizes that both choices were about equally good.

In the third stanza, the narrator mentions time of day: it is "morning." Morning could signify a new beginning. When we are presented with a new choice, or opportunity, this offers us a chance to do something new—even to start again. It is here, too, that the narrator recognizes the finality of his or her choice:

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

The speaker knows that once a choice is made, it cannot be undone. One must continue on the "path" that was chosen.

The final stanza reveals a kind of wistfulness for choices not made:

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.

The "difference" is not an ode to non-conformity, as so many have thought but instead an acceptance that choices determine the outcome of one's life. The path the speaker chose is "the one less traveled by," not because it was less ordinary, but only because it looked more appealing at first. Yet, both options, or paths, were "really about the same."

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What kind of figurative language do you find in "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost?

The one piece of figurative language that seems to rise above the rest in Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken," is symbolism.

Defined, symbolism is:

...when an object is meant to be representative of something or an idea greater than the object itself.

Though some people may see a contradiction, the "popular" understanding of the symbol of a path that comes to a fork in the woods is that the speaker has arrived at the point where he must make an important life-choice. His sense of individualism drives him to take the path that has been traveled more lightly so as not to follow the "common" path. Though the poem simply describes a walk in the woods, finding symbolism gives "The Road Not Taken" a much deeper meaning to an observant reader.

Personification is also used by Frost. He speaks of the path that "wanted wear." Personification occurs when human characteristics are given to non-human things. In this case, a path cannot "want" anything, but is personified by the author. Also, "having perhaps the better claim" may also be personification in saying that the path "deserved" or "asked" (referring to "claim") to be trodden upon because it had not been worn down.

Finally, we could say that "sigh" is an example of onomatopoeia, which is defined as...

...natural sounds [that] are imitated in the sounds of words (eg buzz, hiss)

In other words, it is when a word represents the sound that it stands for. The word "sigh" mimics the sound we make when we sigh.

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What literary techniques does Frost employ in "The Road Not Taken"?

Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" features a first-person speaker recounting a personal anecdote. This means that the speaker is using the first person pronoun "I" and telling a story about a personal experience. These features also make the poem a narrative poem, as it tells a story, rather than a lyric poem.

Further, Frost uses simple diction, alliteration, and a basic rhyme scheme of ABAAB CDCCD EFEEF GHGGH. The word choice is straightforward. Alliteration can be found in some of the lines; for example, "Because it was grassy and wanted wear" (line 8), repeats the beginning "w" sound. 

The speaker describes the two roads using imagery. He discusses each road in turn, especially focuses on how "worn" each road is, meaning how many times travelers have chosen that road over the other. The first three lines present the central conflict of the poem: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, / And sorry I could not travel both, / And be one traveler, long I stood" deciding which road to take. Once he makes his decision, the speaker expresses this with an exclamatory statement: "Oh, I kept the first for another day!" (12). 

The poem's mood takes a dark turn near the end, when the speaker ponders the irreversible consequences of choosing one path over another. He "doubted if [he] should ever come back," and this doubt means that his decision is irreversible (15). He also says that in the future, he "shall be telling this with a sigh" (16). The speaker's reflections could be said to symbolize or could be said to serve as a metaphor for any decision we make in our lives: ultimately, we choose one path, and we cannot go back and reverse our decision. The choice "has made all the difference" (20). 

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What literary techniques does Frost employ in "The Road Not Taken"?

The poem "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost is a narrative poem that uses the literary elements of first person narration, the story arc, symbolism, and analogy. The poem tells a story in the voice of its only character. The poem's story arc consists of the following:

Inciting incident: the narrator comes to a fork in the road.

Conflict: the narrator must decide which way to go.

Rising action: the narrator evaluates both paths.

Climax: the narrator decides: "Oh, I kept the first for another day!"

Falling action/denouement: narrator doubts if he will ever come back and reflects on his decision.

Theme: taking the route less traveled can impact one's life immensely.

The symbol (or metaphor) of the poem is the diverging path; it represents decision points in life. 

The symbol actually becomes an analogy, which is an extended metaphor with corresponding parts. The diverging paths represent a decision point, evaluating the pros and cons of each path is the decision-making process, and proceeding down one path is the choice a person makes which makes it unlikely that he or she "should ever come back." After a decision is made, there is often a "sigh" where one wonders if the correct action was chosen. Years later a person can look back and see how that one decision affected many things in his or her life.

By telling a simple story that is an analogy for the decision-making process we all are familiar with, Frost created a memorable and meaningful poem that has been touching the hearts of readers for 100 years.

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