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The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
“The Road Not Taken” is the opening poem in Robert Frost’s third collection of poems titled Mountain Interval, published in 1916. The inspiration for writing the poem came to Frost in 1914 when he was with his friend Edward Thomas in Gloucestershire, England. During his stay, he used to go for long walks into the countryside accompanied by Thomas. The latter was seriously interested in acquainting his American friend with the rarities and specialities of the area and as such always took a route that could serve his purpose. However, before the end of that walk, he would regret the choice he had made and wished that they had chosen the other available routes. Such a thing happened regularly and Frost took it as an occasion to jest at the expense of his friend’s ‘wasted regrets’. Frost sought to romanticize this notion of ruminating over what might have been and on his return to America in 1915, he incorporated this notion into the composition of a poem for his new volume of poetry.
Summary of The Road Not Taken
The poet was travelling alone in the yellow wood. He came to a point where the road was bifurcated into two. He could not decide which road to take. He was confused because he had to select one road only. He observed both the roads very carefully. He found that one road was grassy that means less used by the people. The other road was trodden by many people.
Finally, he decided to follow the grassy road which was not used earlier by the people. Thus, the poet faced the problem of making a choice. In his real life, Frost divided to make poetry his vocation in life, in 1912 after trying his hand in several trades. Later on, he was successful as a poet. Thus, the choice seemed very important to the poet. He, therefore, tells us.
“And that had made all the difference.”
Appreciation of The Road Not Taken
The Road Not Taken is a poem which has been much praised by readers and the critics. It was published in 1916 in the volume of poems “Mountain Interval”. It is a personal lyric which records the personal experience of the poet.
This short, simple, poem conveys a very important message to the readers. The poet’s experience becomes symbolic of human experience in all ages.
Once, travelling alone in the woods, the poet stood at a point where two roads diverged. He felt confused in selecting the path. He could not travel both roads at the same time. So he chose the path that was less travelled and this choice had “made all the difference.” It was in 1912, that Frost took an important decision in his life. He decided to make poetry his vocation in life. For this purpose, he went to England with his family. His first volume of poems was published there and received high praise. With his reputation established, he returned to America. Then he was eminently successful as a poet. It was the choice the poet made which determined his destiny. Here, the poet suggests that timely and proper decisions have far-reaching and life long consequences in human life.
The ‘road’ has a symbolic meaning. It indicates the way of life. Most of the people love materialistic life but very few people love spiritual life. The poet took ‘less Travelled’ road and that has made all the difference. The Road Not Taken depicts the confusion that prevails in modern life.
The poem is written in very simple language. There are four stanzas each of five lines. Each stanza presents a small episode. and successfully brings forth the theme of making a choice. The title of the poem is suggestive and symbolic. The personal experience of the poet acquires universal proportions. It is not restricted to the personal level.
The most significant poetic technique applied here is that of symbolism. Added to that, the poet has also made a clever use of natural imagery. The metaphor of two roads represents the two possibilities of where only one could be entertained at a time. The central metaphor clearly suggests the external human problem of choices. But Frost has not dealt with the problem philosophically. He allows the situation to speak for itself and allows the deeper meaning to emerge naturally. This makes the poem easy to read. One of Frost’s favourite modes is the dramatic mode in which a situation is depicted. In this poem, we can easily realize the situation in which a traveller is faced with the dilemma about selecting either of the two roads lying before him in a yellow wood. Robert Frost is known as a poet of “simplicity”. His poems are usually short, seldom running over from one page to another. The verses are composed usually of brief forms such as the quatrain (4-line stanza).
In this poem, however, he has used 5 line stanzas with the rhyme scheme abaab, cdccd, dedde, efeef. Infact, he has enlarged the quatrain to the 5 line stanzas to offer variety.
Answers to check your progress
Q.1: Attempt a critical note on the theme of choice in ‘The Road Not Taken.’
Ans:- The poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ depicts the confusion which prevails in modern life. Robert Frost deals with the basic problems and the basic facts of life. The problem of making a choice is a universal experience. So the personal experience of the poet acquires universal proportions. Symbolically it was the choice the poet made which determined his destiny and made him a poet of distinction. The poet faced the difficulty of choosing one of the two roads in the wood. At the moment of choice, the poet was of the view that choice was important. In the future time, he would reflect on his decision and the choice he made.
Q.2: Discuss the symbolic meaning of ‘The Road Not Taken.’
Ans:- The poem is very easy and simple to read. But this apparent simplicity is misleading. A careful reading of the poem makes us reflect on the difficulty of making choice in our day to day life.
The poem records the personal experience of the poet. But his experience becomes symbolic of human experience in all ages and all countries. ‘The Road’ has a symbolic significance. It indicated the way of life. The road taken means here the choice or the decision taken at a particular moment in the life. The poet suggests that even minor decisions have life – long consequences. The road or the choice determines one’s destiny or future.
Q. 3: Which road was taken by the poet?
Ans:- Once, travelling alone in the wood, the poet stood at a point where two roads diverged. He felt confused in selecting the path. One road was grassy and wanted to wear whereas the other road was worn out because it was frequently used by the people. He chose the path that was less travelled. i.e. he took the ‘grassy’ road and now after many years he says, “That has made all the difference.”