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The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Composed in 1915, Robert Frost’s famous poem, The Road Not Taken, strikes a triumphant chord that echoes his romantic flair for individualism and personal choice. The poem, oftentimes mis-remembered as The Road Less Traveled for its second to last line, can also be read as a slight satire against the myth of the literal phrasing and supposed meaning of the poem. This brief essay will outline both readings with an eye toward analyzing it in both form and content. The Road Not Taken on its most basic level reads as an ode to individualism functioning through its ‘a,b,a,a,b rhyming scheme and four stanzas.

The closing stanza, with it’s notorious ‘I – I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference,’ continues to be a rallying cry of alleged non-conformists and harbingers of personal liberty. The optimism and courage of the dash marks set out Frost’s unique belief in his choice being the correct one as this ‘road less traveled by’ has brought him to his current understanding, even though Frost states that ‘Then took the other, as just as fair,’ which argues that both paths are equally travelled by in the physical sense, but not in the mental atmosphere of individual choice.

With this in mind, the poem can also be read as containing a second level of meaning that functions through a sly use of irony on Frost’s part. From this perspective the poem works as a satire of one of Frost’s friends who would constantly second guess his decisions in life and would most times follow the crowd or take the approved route in his life. In this way, Frost’s claim to taking the alternative route suggests that he wrote the poem in order to bring light to power of making your own decisions in the face of a difficult choice.

The poem also suggests that there is only one path to take, your own, and that there is no turning back once you have begun. Frost writes early on, ‘And sorry I could not travel both/ And be one traveler/ I looked down one as far as I could. ’ This comes in the first stanza and sets the stage of the poem in a context of an intellectual confrontation. The path chosen can lead as far as one can see, but this also means that you cannot see where the other path leads.

The Road Not Taken has taken on a mythical status and is one of the most famous poems from one of the most celebrated Romantics. The irony now is that taking ‘the road less travelled by,’ has become a slogan and has lost its original power as an ode to personal choice and freedom. Taking ‘the road less travelled by’ is now the road most travelled by thanks to Frost’s individual choice ninety-four years ago.

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