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Choices are never easy- everyone faces many of them within their lifetime. Some are clear and easy to make, while others are more difficult. The choice is ours, to make a choice for the moment or for the lifetime.


The poem by Robert Frost “The Road Not Taken” is a first person narrative tale of an important moment in the speaker’s life. He seems to be torn between the choice of a moment and the choice of a lifetime. “The Road Not Taken” can be interpreted in many ways and there are several levels of meaning to this poem. There can be the literal meaning, as he describes a natural setting with beautiful imagery. This is shown in his strong use of metaphors in describing the wearing of the paths and the use of personification in that the path ‘wanted wear.’ This is also evident in his description of the ‘yellow wood.’ This gives the impression to the reader that there is an autumn scene with the leaves changing. Just as the decisions we make change ourselves. While some would think to describe turning leaves as perhaps golden in color, he uses figurative language with the letter Y in yellow, which to me creates the visual of the fork in the road. There can also be the deeper more profound meaning. His writing describes his feelings in the way he states that he was ‘sorry he could not travel both’, and also the universal meaning of the choices people must make on the road of life and how hard it is to make that decision. The characters apparent inability to make a decision creates the link between the reader and the poet. The Road Not Taken allows the reader to relate the theme to a time in their own life.


“The Road Not Taken” was inspired as a private joke between Frost and Lawrence Thomas. While visiting Thomas in England the two would take long walks through the countryside. Repeatedly, Thomas would choose a route that would allow him to show Frost a special landscape or a rare flower; but by the end of the walk Thomas would regret the path that he chose and would sigh over what he might have been able to show Frost if they had taken the “better” path. Frost often said that he found something “romantic about sighing over what might have been.” This helped him with his inspiration to write this poem.


There have been many interpretations of what the true theme of the poem might be, however I interpreted this poem to be about choices whose outcome we cannot predict. Although both paths seem to be very similar in appearance, they both have very different destinations. One might never know exactly where the path or where life might take you. When Frost says ‘I shall be telling this with a sigh’, I am not be sure whether Frost meant the ‘sigh’ to mean he was sorry that he had taken the path that he had or if that he was relieved that he chose the path he did. Frost never publicly clarified what he actually meant by the ‘sigh,’ but Frost once received a letter from a young grammar-school girl asking ‘Why the sigh?’ This prompted his answer. “It was rather my private jest at the expense of those who might think I would yet live to be sorry for the way I had taken my life. I suppose I was gently teasing them. I’m not really a very regretful person, but for your solicitousness on my behalf I’m your friend always.” Though these words may seem to mean that he was not sorry for the path that he choose, the question was never truly answered. Frost was reported to say about his poetry, that the reader “Should not press the poem too hard. The real meaning is the most obvious.”


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Though Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” seems to be overtly about choices, his poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is more subtle in it’s theme. Both poems express the sense of a journey. The woods in “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” appear to represent his freedom, his way out. He stops in the middle of where he came from and where he was going to contemplate the choice he had to make between freedom and obligation. The snow separates him from the forces at either end of his journey. Frost concludes that the theme of this poem discusses the “conflict between obligatory promises, a matter for the head to decide, and the enticements of the feelings.” I see it as being the conflict between the head and the heart.


Robert Frost s true strength is in taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. He acquaints the reader with the theme of seemingly unimportant experiences, in such a way that allows our own lives to take on new meaning. Many times, Frost inserts personal experience into the personality of his characters. The Road Not Taken and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” illustrates the relationship created between the poem and the reader. This relationship allows the readers to connect themselves with the poem. Ultimately the choice is ours. As the poem says, “I, I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”





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