In Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” (reprinted in Laurence Perrine and Thomas R. Arp, Sound and Senses, 8th ed. San Diego: Harcourt, 1992 23) the speaker stands in the woods, considering a fork in the road. Both ways are equally worn, and equally overlaid with un-trodden leaves. The speaker chooses one, telling himself that he will take the other another day.
Yet he knows it is unlikely that he will have the opportunity to do so. And he admits that someday in the future he will recreate the scene with a slight twist: he will claim that he took the less-traveled road. The whole poem is an extended metaphor, where Frost describes a path in the woods that is directly comparable to a major decision in life. In this case, the narrator is “lost” in the poem, both on the trail, and in his life.
“The Road Not Taken” consists of four stanzas of five lines each having an identical rhyme scheme of ABAAB. The first, third, and fourth lines in every stanza rhyme, along with the second and fifth lines.
Thus, allowing the poem to flow at a smoother and steadier pace. There are four stressed syllables per line, forming an iambic tetrameter base. A person’s life can be metaphorically related to a physical journey filled with many twists and turns. Frost presents to the reader a man’s decision, at a turning point in his life, symbolized by “two roads diverged in a yellow wood.”
In the first line, Frost introduces the elements of his primary metaphor: the diverging roads. The speaker expresses his regret that “he could not travel both” (line 2).
The choice is not easily made since “long I stood” (line 3) before coming to a decision. In an attempt to make a choice, the traveler examines the path “as far as he could” (line 4), but his vision is limited because the path bends and is covered “in the undergrowth” (line 5). Thus, indicating that although he would have liked to acquire more information, he is prevented from doing so because of the nature of his environment. In lines 6-8, the speaker is still unable to decide between the two paths since “the other, is just as fair” (line 6). He indicates that the second path is a more attractive choice since “it was grassy and wanted wear” (line 8). Nevertheless, by the end of the stanza, he remains ambivalent, even after comparing the two paths, for each was “really about the same” (line 10).
Neither path has been traveled lately. In the third stanza, the speaker makes his decision, trying to persuade himself that he will eventually “come back” (line 15) to satisfy his desire and curiosity to travel both paths. However, deep down, he admits to himself that such hope is unrealistic. By the final stanza, the traveler settles on a choice. He imagines himself in the future, discussing his life, and appears to contradict what he has said earlier. In the future, he will claim that the paths were different from each other and that he had courageously chose the path “less traveled by” (line 19).
On a larger note, this poem can closely relate to the everyday life of humans, which are filled with circumstances in need of decisions. Each circumstance comes with decisions that must be made in order to make life more fulfilling and meaningful. Once the decision is made, that “fork in the road” has passed, life goes on, the decision is accepted, and the past cannot be changed. Frost reminds the reader of the importance of choices and how those decisions affect the future. Therefore, choices must be carefully weighed. In the end, humans reflect over decisions that have been made, and like Frost at the end of this poem, sigh, discovering those decisions have made “all the difference” to their lives.