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Explication of The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” is one of Mr. Frost’s most well known poems. This poem dramatizes the conflict between living in the moment and longing for choices not made. Mr. Frosts brilliantly uses the fork in the road that he has found in the woods as a metaphor for the choices that we are all forced to make in life. He points out that it isn’t always about making a good choice or a bad choice, but rather that we can only chose one and once we make that choice there is no going back. In this poem the narrator is walking through the woods, on his walk he happens upon two paths.

He now has to decide which path to take, he can only see so far in each direction so that neither path is giving a clear indication of where he would end up. Taking a closer look at the paths themselves to make a choice does not help. Each path is worn and covered in leaves, neither path shows a foot print. The narrator decides to take one path, telling himself that on another day he will come back and follow the other path, knowing full well that in life we seldomly are able to go back and change a path we have taken.

The narrator even goes on to say that as he progresses through life, he will tell people that came to a fork in the road and he chose to take the path that was less followed. “The Road Not Taken” is a metaphor for the decisions we make in life. In this particular case the narrator is forced to chose between two decisions that appear comparable at first, but is unaware of where either decision will take him. “The Road Not Take” is comprised of four stanzas each with five lines and each having the same rhyme scheme of ABAAB.

In each stanza the first, third and fourth lines rhyme, as do the second and fifth lines. This allows the poem to read and flow at a steadier, smoother pace. Each line has four stressed syllables which form an iambic tetrameter base. Metaphorically speaking a person’s life can be likened to a journey where there are many turns or twists. Mr. Frost uses this poem to show the reader one person’s decision as they stand facing a turning point in their life, which is symbolized by the “Two roads diverged in a wood…”

As we begin with the first stanza we are made aware of a moment of change and it is here that the narrator points out that he has to make a choice “Two roads diverged” (line 1), that is going to impact the rest of his life. It is in the first line of the poem that we are introduced to the two elements that are being used to set up the main metaphor of the poem, the two roads. As he looks down he sees that at his feet meet two roads, which signify two roads in life, only one of which he can chose. The narrator tells us that he regrets that “[he] could not travel both” (line 2).

The decision that the narrator makes is not an easy decision, again he says “long I stood” (line 3) prior to making his decision. To help make his decision the narrator looks closely at each path “as far as [he] could” (line 4), however the true course of the path is not visible because it bends and is covered by brush “in the undergrowth” (line 5). Thereby indicating that the narrator wishes he could get a better idea of where the paths lead, to make a better decision, he can not do so due to the conditions of the environment.

Taking a look at lines 6 thru 8 the narrator is still not able to make a choice because “the other, [is] just as fair” (line 6). However, when we move to the next line the narrator seems to express a preference, “having perhaps the better claim,” (line 7). The narrator continues to show a preference with the second path as he claims that the second path is asking for someone to choose it “it was grassy and wanted wear” (line 8). The reality of the choice that is to be made is evident, “for that the passing there” (line 9).

Which has not made the choice any easier as the narrator concludes that the paths are “really about the same” (line 10). Both paths lay waiting for footprints to be laid. In the third stanza, the narrator comes to the conclusion that each path is really equal, “both that morning equally lay” (line 11). He realizes that he is not the first to stand and contemplate the choice before him he is the first one to do so that day, “no step had trodden black” (line 12).

“I kept the first for another day,” (line 13) shows that what he would prefer to do is to be able to walk one path at this moment, but be able to come back and follow the other path on a different day just to see where it will take him. The narrator is wise enough to know that this is not how life works “Yet knowing how way leads on to way,” (line 14). He goes on further to explain that taking both paths is not a viable option even if delayed, “doubted if I should ever come back,” (line 15).

The narrator is finally prepared to make a decision. He is acutely aware that he will not make it back to this point again, and he admits that his plan is not realistic. In the final stanza our narrator has made a choice, that one day he will reflect on “I shall be telling this with a sigh,” (line 16). He acknowledges that when he is asked in the future, “ages and ages hence,” (line 17) of this decision he had to make “Two roads diverged in a wood,” (line 18) he will embellish the story “I took the one less traveled by,” (line 19).

It is at that point in life that he will be able to sit back and praise himself for the choice he has made and be thankful for where he has ended up, “And that has made all the difference,” (line 20). He says that he will tell others that he chose to the bravely take the path that was less traveled by. On a grander scale, “The Road Not Taken” can be related to everyday life for everyone, as we are all faced with circumstances and decisions that impact the rest of our lives. Every circumstance that we encounter is linked to a decision that we must make, which will change our lives, in hopes of making it more meaningful and fulfilling.

When a decision is made the “fork in the road” is eliminated and life moves on, the decision has been made and can’t be changed. Mr. Frost reminds us of the importance of every decision we make and how it impacts our future. This means that the choices we make need to be considered carefully and the consequences weighted because there is no going back. Robert Frost does a very nice job of showing us how important it is to carefully consider the decisions we make in our lives.

It is often that we are faced with two choices, both of which seem very similar to begin with and both choices appear to be “good” we have to try to see past the bend in the road before we commit. This is because in life, we are not able to go back and change the decisions that we have made. Everyone, however, has the ability to stop and look back and make the most out of a decision they have made, and it is at that point that we have the power to change how that decision impacted our lives. As the narrator says that he will tell 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. ” In the end, we as humans reflect on the decisions we have made. Much like the narrator in Frost’s poem, we say with a sigh that the decisions we have made were the very paths that made “all the difference” in our lives. It is the wise person that can look back on the those choices that had the greatest impact on our life and knows that for better or worse the decision we made at that time is what has brought us to where we are today.

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