Robert Frost is one of the most renowned poets in the twentieth century. Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”, has remained an influential literary piece over the last few decades. Robert Frost uses a distinct mastery of the colloquial language as well as vivid depictions of rural life in most of his poems. “The Road Not Taken” uses similar colloquial language as well as the rural American setting to pass several philosophical and sociological messages. The author of “The Road Not Taken” has received widespread recognition for his work in literature including winning a number of Pulitzer Prizes. “The Road Not Taken” is a poem that explores the choices that a person makes in life. In several instances, the title of Frost’s poem has been mistaken for “The Road Less Travelled”. The poet argues that the choices that a person makes in life are usually ‘for better or for worse’. Frost’s poem uses several literary tools to pass its message. This paper is an analysis of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”.
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In Frost’s poem, the speaker has encountered a diversion in the middle of a path. After encountering the fork in the woods, the speaker begins to contemplate about which road to choose. The speaker’s main dilemma is lack of choice because he/she can only follow one of the paths. After some deliberations, the speaker decides to take one of the paths. In the speaker’s thoughts, the road that he/she took is the one that is less worn out. However, the speaker reckons that in reality the two roads are “worn… really about the same” (Dickinson et al. 1). In the latter part of the poem, the speaker expresses the desire to travel through the road he/she did not take. Nevertheless, the speaker realizes that the ability to go back in time and take the alternative path is quite limited.
Frost uses a reflective tone in his poem to indicate the impact choices can have on an individual’s life. One of the literary tools that are used to reiterate the reflective nature of the poem is symbolism. The road is the poem’s main symbol and it is used by the poet to indicate the path of life. According to the speaker, “two roads diverged in a yellow wood…..and sorry I could not travel both” (Dickinson et al. 1). The road is a symbol of the direction of life and the diversion represents the different options that are manifested in form of life-choices. Frost addresses universal themes that are easy to connect with and this increases the poem’s potential audience. Other literary devices that are employed in the poem include rhymes and rhythms. The tone of the poem changes from time to time but the poet mainly employs nostalgia in his work.
“The Road Not Taken” has four stanzas and each of these has four lines. The rhyme scheme in each stanza follows the pattern of ABAAB. In addition, the poet adheres to a strict pattern of nine syllables per line. An analysis of the poem begins with a consideration of the poet’s main theme. Frost presents readers with a nostalgic view of how personal choices can feature in a person’s life. In this case, the speaker opts to travel through the road that is less travelled and ignores the one he/she considers to be more popular. In the end, the speaker admits that his/her life would have turned out to be different were it not for the choice he/she had made earlier on.
One of the reasons why this poem is so popular is because the readers find it easy to relate to. People make various life choices everyday and some of these decisions often make them contemplate about their lives. In addition, whenever someone has to choose between two similar choices, one can use Frost’s dilemma to speculate about the future. In instances of great dilemma, most people are unable to see beyond the “bend in the undergrowth” just like the speaker (Dickinson et al. 1). In accordance with the poem’s language, the only consolation when someone is wondering if he/she chose the right path in life is the conviction that the ‘road taken’ was indeed the right one.
After analyzing the poem closely, it is clear that the speaker’s hypothesis is not fool proof. The narrator is reflecting on a choice that he/she made in the past. Nevertheless, the speaker is able to make ‘accurate’ comparisons about the two choices. This is quite unlikely because the speaker has already indicated a strong element of bias in his/her claims. For example, when the speaker arrives at the fork in the road, he/she claims that the two paths are ‘equally fair’. However, it is quite obvious that the speaker is not in a position to ascertain that the two paths present equal value. One of the roads has to have more significance that the other. Consequently, the speaker is only making these claims to justify his/her life choices in old age.
Frost is quite careful to avoid giving advice in “The Road Not Taken”. Instead, the poet uses definite language to reveal the more complicated aspects of life-based decisions through his work. For example, the poet informs the readers that there are several philosophical outcomes to any decision and not just two. In addition, the poet uses foreshadowing and nostalgia to reveal how a minuscule decision can be manifested in great detail. The readers are curious to find out where the two paths that are “covered in leaves” will lead (Dickinson et al. 16).
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Robert Frost conjures up a future that matters but one that can still be examined with a lighthearted consideration. Therefore, the speaker uses an ironic tone to deal with the inevitable. The speaker ironically speculates that he/she “shall be telling with a sigh…somewhere ages and ages hence” the story of his/her choices (Dickinson et al. 16). This irony downplays the accuracy of the facts that the poet is hoping to report in future. The poet is quite aware that the claims that will be made in future will be subject to inaccuracy and hypocrisy. Nevertheless, Frost is able to recognize the insignificance of the need to ‘make right choices’. In the end, even an old person cannot be able to recognize whether the choices he/she made were the right ones.
“The Road Not Taken” is a poem about life choices. According to Frost, any choice has its future consequences. However, these consequences are irrelevant because their flipside cannot be known. The poet uses this premise to formulate the poem’s main theme. The title of the poem is “The Road Not Taken.” Nevertheless, the poem explores the other option or the ‘road that was taken’. Using rhymes and rhythm, the poet conveys his message skillfully.
Dickinson, Emily, et al. Four Major American Poets. Upper Saddle, NJ: Pearson Education, 2010. Print.