Robert Frost (1874-1963) is among the most renowned figures in American poetry. During his lifetime, Frost wrote many poetry collections. The poem The Road Not Taken was written by Robert Frost in 1915. He wrote it at the beginning of World War I before he moved from England to the US. The poem is significant because it portrays the impact that different choices we make in our lives have.
The poem’s central theme is about making choices. All choices made in life have consequences; hence there is a need to be careful when making decisions. The poem’s narrator is on a journey when he comes across a fork-in-the road or crossroads where he must decide the best option for him.
As he continues traveling, the narrator seems conflicted as he wonders which way is the most suitable to use. When the narrator chooses to follow one road, he takes risks in the world of the unknown, and he does not know the consequences that will result from his actions. Also, his choice means that he will not get to know what is on the other road. Any choice he makes is the beginning of a new experience and the end of the possibility of another.
Unfortunately, he does not know which one is right or wrong, so he has to decide first on the road to take and then know the outcomes later. At the end of the poem, the narrator states that he made a choice where he decided to use the less traveled road, and his decision “made all the difference” (Line 20). It shows that he acknowledges the impact of the choice he made.
The speaker in the poem seems to be facing a major dilemma in his journey, which is seen in the tone he uses. The poem’s tone changes at different stages as he narrates his confusing ordeal. One discovers the narrator uses an insightful yet regretful and indecisive tone in the poem.
There is a shift in the speaker’s tone as he considers the choice to take. When the narrator starts deciding which way to go, he is indecisive, as seen when he explains that he wishes he could “travel both.” However, this state of confusion changes when he sees that it is impossible to travel both roads, and he appears to become more sensible, as seen through his insightful tone.
He finally decides to take the road that is “less traveled by. And that has made all the difference” (Lines 19-20). Towards the end, the tone is more relaxed, and he thinks he “shall be telling this with a sigh” (Line 16).
Also, since the conflicting story seems to be taking place in the speaker’s head, the speaker uses a contemplative tone. There is a sense of nostalgia as he thinks back on the time when he was faced with the challenge of choosing one road between the two that he had come across.
Figurative Language/ Poetic Devices
Robert Frost uses various poetic devices and figurative language in the poem. For example, he uses alliteration, as seen through the repetition of the ‘f’ sound in the words ‘first’ and ‘for.’ The poet also uses repetition, which is an effective poetic device in creating emphasis in the poem.
The word “way” is repeated in the poem twice in line 14. Additionally, the poem contains imagery, as seen when the speaker vividly describes the roads’ condition. He discusses their beautiful state that morning since no one had walked on the road, which could have turned the leaves black from the passerby’s footsteps.
Similes are used when the speaker compares the two roads stating that they were “as just as fair” (Line 5). Also, in line 11, enjambment is utilized when no punctuation is used, and line 12 begins. Rhyme is used in the third stanza as seen through words like lay, day, and way. There is a sound correspondence at the words’ endings.
The road in the poem is a metaphor for life that shows our lives that have an undetermined destination. The fork is also a metaphor for choices we make that can alter our lives.
The poem “The Road Not Taken” shows the conflicting situation the narrator is in when he meets a fork on the road as he travels. To continue his journey, he must decide on the road to take between the two. It shows all the confusion and emotion that result from the need to decide.He tries to analyze the roads by looking “down one as far as I could” (Line 4). Unfortunately, the bend restricts his view; hence he must dive into a world of uncertainty. Finally, the narrator decides on the road to take, which is the less traveled one, and the decision makes a difference in his journey.
Frost, R. “The Road Not Taken.” Poetry Foundation. (2022). The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost | Poetry Foundation