While the textbook offers a wide range of captivating, deep poems, fully of effective and meaningful symbolism, few of them are as captivating and current as the poem “Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, which is rightfully one of his more popular works (Frost).
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This is a narrative poem, which follows a nameless narrator who is following a metaphorical road, representing his life, and runs into a fork in the road, representing a need for a choice.
While an apparently similar idea, this poem has found its audience among large swashes of people of all ages and has captivated them for decades. The situation it presents is familiar to almost everyone, and people find it very easy to relate to it.
However, there is an argument that the meaning of the poem goes deeper than that, with the narrator and his reactions traditionally being misinterpreted in a way that radically changes the meaning of the poem.
In this essay, we will study the “Road Not Taken”, and will assess the author’s intentions behind the poem, and how can they be deduced from his word choice, mood, symbols, and imagery.
Robert Frost was an American poet, who has achieved universal acclaim for his examinations of social and philosophical issues through the prism of rural life in the early twentieth century the New England. Nowadays, Robert Frost is considered to be one of the most popular and influential poets of the past century.
He received several Pulitzer awards and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the Congress.
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Keeping with Frost’s style, the poem places the narrator into a rural setting of an autumn wood road, facing a divergence in the road.
The narrator is struck with indecision, desperately wanting to try both roads, but understanding that he can walk only one of them, and probably will never get to come back to it. In the end, he chooses the “road less travelled by” (ll. 19).
Already the author pictures himself remembering this moment in the future, and rethinking his choice.
Often, this poem is interpreted as an ode to free will and choice, and the willingness to explore new, untraveled paths in life. However, this optimistic interpretation makes this poem one of the most misinterpreted in literature.
The tone of this poem is not that of optimism and wonder, but of wariness. Even as the narrator is making his choice, his assessment of the roads changes, since every time he is close to a decision, the other begins to look more appealing. And while he makes it in the second stanza, he is still thinking back to the second road, thinking he “kept the first for another day!” (ll. 14). And, in the end, he knows he won’t be satisfied with his choice years ahead and will blame this choice on anything bad that comes his way.
This poem is a story of indecisiveness and pointless regret over past unexplored opportunities. Even the name of the poem, “The Road Not Taken”, shows the author’s attention to word choice. The focus of the story is not that the narrator took a less travelled road, but that there is a road he did not take.
“The Road Not Taken” is an interesting, pleasant, and at the same time, complex poem. Its word choice, mood, symbols, and imagery are all carefully chosen to create a specific feeling to the story, and warn the readers against the dangers of dwelling on the past choices, and harbouring regrets. At the same time, even misinterpreted it has provided inspiration to whole generations of young people, urging them to take risks and explore different walks of life.
Frost, Robert. The Road Not Taken. 1920.