The Poems of Robert Frost | Study Guide

Robert Frost

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The Poems of Robert Frost | The Road Not Taken | Summary

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Summary

A traveler stops in a wood where the road divides. He stands a while, considering which to take, and then chooses one "because it was grassy and wanted wear." Then on second thought, he decides that the other road was worn "really about the same." He reasons that he can take that road on another day, although he quickly realizes it is unlikely he will ever come back to the yellow wood. In the final stanza, the traveler thinks ahead to the future and imagines the consequences of his choice. "I took the one less traveled by," he says, "And that has made all the difference."

Analysis

"The Road Not Taken" was published in Mountain Interval (1916). There are a number of poems in which Frost's speaker undercuts conclusions that have become nearly clichés in modern culture. Choosing the road "less traveled by" is one. Another is found in the final words in "Mending Wall": "Good fences make good neighbors." Like the conclusion to "Mending Wall," the final lines of "The Road Not Taken" consist of truisms rather than the truth. The question of what "has made all the difference" is not a matter of choosing "the road less traveled by." In fact, the speaker realizes that "the passing there / Had worn them really about the same." So the speaker is not making a recommendation to choose a less traveled road. Rather, this poem is about making choices in life. The speaker could have chosen either road, and it is that choice—regardless of which is more or less traveled by—that will have made the difference in his life. Readers might extend this interpretation a bit more and consider that possibly this is not a poem about choice at all, but one about the inevitability of creating our life narratives in hindsight.

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