The process of making decisions is not always clear and with decision comes consequence and possible regret of what could have been. In “The Road Not Taken”, by Robert Frost, the reader is left feeling the writers’ dilemma of choice. Making the right choice sometimes is not easy and the end result is not always what we hoped for. Both of the choices or “roads”, in this case, were seemingly filled with new beginnings and hope for the future. The traveler expresses that he will keep the other path for another day.
This is evidenced in the fourth stanza, line 1, “I shall be telling this with a sigh”, and the writer leads the reader to believe that he in later years had some regret of the unknown and what could have been if he had taken the other road as told in stanza 4, line 2-3, “Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I…. I took the one less traveled by”. The simplicity of the writing makes it easy to read but has an obviously deeper meaning; as it relates to life’s more complicated choices and the consequences of those choices, positive or negative.
The poem is written as a lyrical poem, with four stanzas of five lines each. The setting is described in line 1 of stanza 1, as, “yellow wood” and in line 2 of stanza 3, “In leaves no step had trodden black”. These inferences display a mental visual of Fall; the leaves, turning yellow and falling to the ground. The theme is presented in various ways. Firstly, we can see and feel conflict throughout the poem. The conflict of choice and the permanency placed on the decisions we make. The conflict of regret, since we can’t remove or retract what has already been done.
Secondly, confidence and commitment is permeating in the travelers’ choice of roads since it does not appear that the speaker has second thoughts about his final decision but did take time in forming the ultimate decision of which road to take. In the first stanza the traveler comes upon two roads; both of the roads offering new adventures and a risk of disappointment. Being only one person the traveler is faced with having to choose what road to take. The decision was not made lightly as he states, “long I stood and looked down one as far as I could”. Seemingly, it was to see if one road was more desirable than the other road.
Would the road end soon after the bend? Would it offer new scenery and new experience? Or, would it hold emptiness and disappointment? Next, in stanza 2 the traveler expresses that the second road was considered fairly. The traveler describes the road as less worn, the views of Fall similar but more or less the roads were the same. Yet the traveler still hopes that something evident would present itself so the choice would be made clear. Unfortunately, the desire for something visible did not appear and the traveler in stanza 3 expresses dismay by stating, “And both that morning equally lay”, “In leaves no step had trodden black”.
Explaining that both roads had not been walked upon that day and so the adventure would be all his regardless of his choice. In line 3 the traveler optimistically states in not so many words, that one day he would be able to come back to that crossroad and take the journey down the road not taken. Though, realistically the traveler doubts his return as noted in stanza 4, line 5 “I doubted if I should ever come back”. Leaving the opportunity for return open, I believe enabled the traveler to peacefully make the decision with excitement and certainty to take the road less traveled.
In stanza 4, the reader is delighted by the travelers’ confidence as he talks about the stories he’ll tell someday about this life journey. “I shall be telling this with a sigh”, “Somewhere ages and ages hence”. The traveler engages the reader by explaining that although decisional doubts were present at first, he took a leap of faith and it had a positive impact on his life. It can be assumed that the traveler feels his decisions made that day had a positive impact on the rest of his life, as he states, “and that has made all the difference”. The tone is positive and enlightening.
The tone encourages the reader not to always base decisions solely on social standards of popularity but to ponder all the pros and cons before a final decision is made. I read the poem over and over again, maybe 50 or more times before truly understanding the meaning of this poem; and the implications of choice the poem permeated. It became clear to me that the need for faith and trust in our selves but also in God was the bases for good decision making in this poem and in our everyday life. When left alone to make decisions solely based on the influences of others we may often fail or live with disappointment.
Kennedy, X. J., & Gioia, D. (2007). Literature: An introduction to fiction, poetry, drama, and writing. New York: Pearson Longman.