Summary and Analysis of "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost
Introduction to the poem: The Road Not Taken
The poem, The Road Not Taken, is one of the famous poems written by an American poet: Robert Frost. It is a narrative poem that describes the struggle of a central character standing on the road that has diversion and he want to choose correct path but fails to decide which one is better for him. It is a lyric with a patterned rhyming and a regular metrical scheme. The central idea of the poem is quite simple so that every individual can relate it to his personal life, especially when it comes to the concept of choices and opportunities in the life of individual.
Text of the poem:
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this 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.
Rhyme Scheme and Structure of the Poem:
‘The Road Not Taken’ has an interesting style. Unique collection of words, use of variation, and perfect composition make it superb piece of Robert Frost. The poem is narrative in form and written in the first-person. So, the poem is a perfect lyric poem.
The poem is twenty lines in length. It is comprised of four stanzas. Each stanza has five lines. The rhyme scheme of each stanza is ABAAB. The First, third, and fourth lines rhyme together, and second and fifth line rhyme together. Let us analyze rhyme scheme of second stanza of The Road Not Taken.
Line 1: Then took the other, as just as fair,
Line 2: And having perhaps the better claim,
Line 3: Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Line 4: Though as for that the passing there
Line 5: Had worn them really about the same,
In the first line of above stanza, “fair” rhymes with the words, “wear” and “there”. The second line ends with “claim” which rhymes with fifth line “same”. The whole poem has the same pattern ABAAB. The use of enjambment in the poem keeps the sense flowing where one line runs into the next very smoothly.
Each line of the poem consists of nine syllables. However, there is little variation; some lines contain a syllable more or less than the average syllable count. Second syllable of the meter is generally stressed/accented. The overall meter of the poem tetrameter.
Look at the meter of below line from The Road Not Taken!
And sorry I could not travel both (2nd line of The Road Not Taken)
Summary of the Poem: The Road Not Taken
In the poem, The Road Not Taken, readers come to know that the poet, Robert Frost, was traveling alone one day on a road. There were yellow woods across the roads, which means there is start of fall season and the leaves are turning yellow. The poet reached a point where road had a diversion (the road was divided into two different paths). Instantly, he realized that being a traveler, taking both the roads is not possible. Robert Frost had to choose one between the two roads, but he found it difficult because he never came across these two roads in his life and he was not sure which one is better. (Here, two roads indicate two ways of life.)
Due to uncertainty, the poet stood at that fork and looked at the both roads very carefully. Before advancing on one path, he wants to understand how it was. Was it better or both roads are same. The poet was curious about the roads and wanted to understand the advantages and disadvantages of the both paths. He looked at the one road carefully till from where it got curved and afterward the road was covered with tall trees and thus was hidden. He took a long time to decide whether it is good or not for him. Then the poet takes the alternative road because he feels that both roads are equally good. The path was grassy which depicted that fewer people took this road and it was ‘wanted wear”. After walking through the road, he realizes that both the roads were similarly worn out.
Here, again, the poet realized that both the road are looking same. Perhaps, he goes in the flashback. The poet was indecisive and it was difficult for him to recognize the better road. Secondly, he was the first person on the road that morning and there were no clues that which road is more travelled. Both roads were having green leaves and no one stepped on them. He decided to move forward on second road and saves the first road for another day.
The poet knows how “way leads” to another, and then another until you end up very far from where you started your journey. The poet took the second road and saved first road for another day. Now, he wishes that he could go back but he think he will never be able to come back to take the first road.
In second half of the poem, the poet shows his failure in choosing the right path. The word ‘sigh’ indicates that he is dissatisfied with his decision of taking second road. The poet accepts his failure of taking less travelled road. He took the road that no one else took, and that is what has made the difference. Here, the word difference is ambiguous that shows how Robert Frost become successful by taking the road that was not taken by people and this difference of choice made him different from the people. However, there could be opposite meanings of the word “difference” that mean utter failure.
Analysis of the Poem “The Road Not Taken”
The poem opens with beautiful imagery, “a yellow wood”, which appeals the mind of the readers and reminds colors of autumn. The abrupt opening of the poem reveals main idea of the poem in very first two lines. The speaker comes across two different choices and he is stuck to choose the better bath. The speaker looks indecisive and perplex. He tries to examine both roads by looking down until the sight explores.
Finally, the speaker selects a path, which looks him better to carry on his journey. The road he selects is less travelled and he prefers it. As he travels a short, he realizes that both the roads are similar and there is no much difference. Here speaker is uncertain about his decision and this uncertainty leads him to over-thinking. It happens in our daily lives when we take a decision; we think again and again either the decision is right or wrong. Sometime we take a right path but remain in confusions that if we took another one, that might be better than this one. The speaker is also uncertain about his decision.
The speaker is walking on the second road, and he observes that both paths are similar. Because no one had stepped through to disturb the leaves on both roads. The speaker consoles himself that he will take first road another day and looks satisfied that he saved it for future. Here, his uncertainty is at peak. First he consoles himself that he saved first road for another day, but on the other hand, he honestly confesses to himself that it’s highly unlikely he will come back to travel this other road. Because he is well aware that now he will not be able to get back because the road he has taken will find other paths for him.
In the last stanza, the speaker foresees that in future, he will recount his decision and will tell it to other about his decision of making a choice. The last stanza is a bit confusing that has different meanings. The last line reveals that the difference is all due to selection of the path chosen that was less travelled. However, the word difference leads to controversy that this difference is either the failure of taking less travelled path or the success of the poet. Up to some extent, it seems success of the poet, that he travelled where people hesitate to move.
Main Themes in the Poem
The poem has a verity of different themes. Some of the main themes of The Road Not Taken are choice, journey of life, desires, uncertainty, indecision, ambiguity, and over-thinking. In this poem, the poet has to make a choice between two decisions and he is uncertain which one is better.
Theme of Journey of life: The journey of the poet on a road is depiction of journey of life. Journey of life is one of the main theme of The Road Not Taken. The junction on the road is the indication of the time in life where we have different opportunities to carry on life journey.
Theme of Choice: The speaker is walking on a road and he reaches a point where road splits into two different paths. He has two choices to continue his journey. Here these choices are referred to our daily life opportunities and we have to make a better choice.
Theme of Desires: In the first stanza, the post tells that he is unable to take both roads which means he want to take both roads but it is not possible. He wants to evaluate both roads and wants to make a choice of better road. Again here, it refers to our daily life where we have different opportunities and desires to avail all the opportunities but it is not possible. Same desire is highlighted in the line of first stanza: And sorry I could not travel both
Theme of Uncertainty: This is also a prevalent theme of The Road Not Taken. The poet is uncertain to choose the right path. When he makes a decision and takes a road to follow, he is still not sure that he is on right path or wrong. Both paths looks similar and he in uncertain about his decision.
Theme of indecision in The Road Not Taken: Readers come to know at very start of the poem about indecisive attitude of the speaker. He take a lot of time to make a decision but still he seems fail to make a correct decision. Generally, it happens in lives of the people that they became perplex when they have to make a choice. Some time they take a good decision but they remain confused about that decision.
Symbolism in the Poem “The Road Not Taken”
Robert Frost uses a verity of different symbols in The Road not Taken. The main symbols are road, yellow woods, diversion, leaves, undergrowth, ages and ages, and difference.
Road: The road symbolizes journey of life.
Diversion: The image of the road splitting into two paths symbolizes a choice in life of an individual.
Yellow Woods: Yellow woods symbolize the idea of change.
Leaves: Leaves symbolize clues for the better choice.
Undergrowth: Undergrowth stands for the undiscovered regions of the future.
Ages and ages: Ages and ages refers to assumption of future when present will have become far past.
Difference: Difference symbolizes the choices that are made by very few people.
Analysis of Literary Derives in The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost uses a verity of different literary devices in ‘The Road Not Taken’. Below are the main literary devices.
Use of Metaphor in the Poem: Robert Frost used several metaphors in The Road Not Taken. Title of the poem itself has metaphorical meaning. The word ‘road’ is used as a metaphor for the choice we make for different opportunities. The phrase “yellow woods” is also a metaphor that implies the idea of change in difficult situation as tree change their leaves. In last stanza of Tw Road Not Taken, Robert Frost uses a metaphor “less traveled road” that means the choices less preferred by humans.
Use of Simile: Simile is a literary device that is used in poetry to make a stated comparison of two different things. In simile, we use word ‘as’ or ‘like’ to make a comparison. The Robert Frost used simile in second stanza, “as just as fair”. Here poet compare road to an easy way through life
Use of Personification: Personification is a literary device and it has wide use in poetry. In personification, a poet attribute a human’s quality to a non-living thing or to an abstract idea. Here, in The Road Not take, poet personifies road and attribute it with a human quality. In second stanza, poet stated, “Because it was grassy and wanted wear”. The use of wanted wear is a beautiful personification.
The poem implies a deep concept regarding choices and decisions we made in our daily life. It was his best poetic form to convey a deep message in a beautiful poem. The poet reveals to us that we make different choices and after making a decision we regret that if we might choose another option that would be better for us. Similarly, poet takes one road as a better road but after travelling a little, he observes both roads are same and still makes a wish to take first one. This uncertainty prevails in minds of very individual and he tries to rely that we should make one decision; and when we move with a decision, we should be consistent.
7 thoughts on “Summary and Analysis of The Road Not Taken”
Last stanza makes me confused and specifically the word ‘difference’. Robert Frost used it in positive sense or negative sense? Can we relate it to his poetic works? Or it is linked with his personal domestic life?
The Road Not Taken is one of my favorite poems. I also love to choose the road that is less traveled. Difficult and less travailed roads have bigger opportunities. Majority follow people blindly and it is not good all the time.
This article is rich in its core and wide in topic ranges. The word ‘difference’ at the end of poem The Road Not Taken is used mysteriously. Here it is explained nicely. Still it has confusion that either the poet was successful or failure by taken less traveled road. But majority quotes is as a seccess of the poet. The Robert Frost himself says that the handling of the poem is bit tricky.
The Road Not Taken is one of my favorite poems written by Robert Frost .😊🌹
Dear sir it’s very useful and perfect in its composition. Thanks for such a single unit analysis.
A beautiful poem with good explanation❤. I could not find other poems. Kindly publish other poems of Robert Frost also.
Your explanation of the poem is very comprehensible, and thanks for covering the range of topic in a single article.