person walking through a forest

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

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So you’re going to teach Robert Frost's “The Road Not Taken.” Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, “The Road Not Taken” has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenging spots—subtle irony and ambiguous meanings—teaching this poem to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying “The Road Not Taken” will give them unique insight into literary movements during WWI, Robert Frost’s life and poetic style, and themes surrounding choice, regret, and indecision. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance 

  • Publication Date: 1916
  • Recommended Grade Levels: 6th and up 
  • Approximate Word Count: 150 
  • Author: Robert Frost 
  • Country of Origin: United States 
  • Genre: Lyric Poetry 
  • Literary Period: American Modernism 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Self 
  • Narration: First-Person 
  • Setting: Autumn, a Forest 
  • Poetic Devices: Iambic Tetrameter, ABAAB Rhyme Scheme, Four Stanzas, Five Lines per Stanza 
  • Tone: Regretful, Hopeful, Indecisive

Texts that Go Well with "The Road Not Taken"

“Choices” by Tess Gallagher is a short poem showing the decision of the speaker, who wants to cut down the forest to gain a clear mountain view but instead lets the forest be. Published in 2011, “Choices” pairs well with “The Road Not Taken” in that it shows insight into how life decisions affect the outside world while Frost’s poem explores how decisions bring internal changes. 

“Lights Out” (1916) by Edward Thomas was published the same year as “The Road Not Taken.” This poem provides insight into the different prominent poetic styles during this literary period. “Lights Out” is a poem about WWI that assesses the choice of going into the unknown, which fits well with Frost’s poem about making life decisions without knowing the results. 

“Of Robert Frost” by Gwendolyn Brooks, published in 1963, is a short, vivid, and musical poem describing Brooks’s view of Frost. The poem is an homage to Frost’s character, told through contrapuntal images: “There is a little lightning in his eyes. / Iron at the mouth”; “Some glowing in the common blood. / Some specialness within.” Brooks beautifully shows us Frost’s mix of earthiness and sublimity. 

“One Art” (1976) by Elizabeth Bishop is a poem about losing things and people. While presenting the speaker as a “master” of the “art of losing,” Bishop turns readers around and pushes them to acknowledge that no one can truly “master” loss or grief. This poem pairs well with “The Road Not Taken,” as readers can explore the power of contradictory language and hidden meaning in both poems. 

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, published in 1923, is similar to “The Road Not Taken” in that it holds an essence of the unknown and pushes readers to question its meaning. A great example of Frost’s style, this poem allows readers to experience poetic ambiguity, slightly altered structure, and intriguing diction.

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History of the Text