This poem is very often misinterpreted as an inspirational verse meant to encourage readers to make tough decisions—to choose the path that fewer people have walked, so to speak. One hears it recited at graduation ceremonies, set to uplifting musical scores, and even printed in yearbooks and notebook inserts meant to touch the hearts of students. In reality, the poem conveys the idea that it isn't actually possible to make unique and brave choices because all of the choices open to us have actually been made by those who came before, though we like to believe that we can be unique.
The speaker of the poem says that, in terms of comparing the two roads ahead of him, they do look a little different from one another—one is grassier than the other,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really the same . . .
In other words, the number of people who have traveled each road have worn them down about the same amount. This would lead readers to believe, then, that about the same number of people have traveled each road.
If the fork in the road symbolizes a decision, then each road is a choice. If the same number of people have traveled each road, then the same number of people have made each choice, and there is not, after all, a unique or "less traveled" road to choose.
Further, the speaker says of the roads,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
On the particular morning when he first approaches the fork in the road, no one appears to have traveled either one. Both of them equally lay in leaves that are still yellow and have not been muddied by the shoes of passers-by. One is no more or less traveled than the other. The speaker has no way of knowing which one he ought to choose; he must simply choose.
(The entire section is 490 words.)