English

The Road Not Taken – Basic Concepts

The Road Not Taken - Basic Concepts

Structure of “The Road Not Taken”

This poem consists of four stanzas, each five lines in length (a quintrain), with a mix of iambic and anapaestic tetrameter, producing a steady rhythmical four beat first-person narrative. Most common speech is a combination of iambs and anapaests, so Frost chose his lines to reflect this:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

Poetic Devices Used in “The Road Not Taken”

In “The Road Not Taken,” Frost primarily makes use of metaphor. Other poetic devices include the rhythm in which he wrote the poem, but these aspects are covered in the section on structure.

Figurative Meaning of “The Road Not Taken”

Frost uses the road as a metaphor for life: he portrays our lives as a path we are walking along toward an undetermined destination. Then, the poet reaches a fork in the road. The fork is a metaphor for a life-altering choice in which a compromise is not possible. The traveler must go one way, or the other.

The descriptions of each road (one bends under the undergrowth, and the other is “just as fair”) indicates to the reader that, when making a life-altering decision, it is impossible to see where that decision will lead. At the moment of decision-making, both roads present themselves equally, thus the choice of which to go down is, essentially, a toss up–a game of chance.

The metaphor is activated. Life offers two choices, both are valid but the outcomes could be vastly different.

Literal Meaning of “The Road Not Taken”

Literally, “The Road Not Taken” tells the story of a man who reaches a fork in the road, and randomly chooses to take one and not the other.

Symbolism of “The Road Not Taken”

The road, itself, symbolizes the journey of life, and the image of a road forking off into two paths symbolizes a choice.

As for color, Frost describes the forest as a “yellow wood.” Yellow can be considered a middle color, something in-between and unsure of itself. This sets the mood of indecision that characterizes the language of the poem.

Frost also mentions the color black in the lines:

And both the morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Clearly, this is to emphasize that both roads appeared untouched, not having been tarnished by the foot of a previous traveler. The poet is the first to encounter this dilemma.

Point of View of “The Road Not Taken”

The point of view is of the traveler, who, walking along a single path, encounters a fork in the road and stops to contemplate which path he should follow.

Two Roads Differ in “The Road Not Taken”

The two roads in “The Road Not Taken” hardly differ.

The first road is described as bending into the undergrowth. The second road is described as “just as fair,” though it was “grassy and wanted wear.”

At this, it seems the second road is overgrown and less travelled, but then the poet writes:

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no steps had trodden black.

So, again, the roads are equalized. Yet, as if to confuse the reader, Frost writes in the final stanza:

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

With that, we are left to wonder how Frost knew the road he took was the one less traveled by. But Frost likely left this ambiguity on purpose so that the reader would not focus so much on condition of the road, and, instead, focus on the fact that he chose a road (any road, whether it was that which was less traveled by or not), and that, as a result, he has seen a change in his life.

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