Introduction and Stanza-Wise Summary of ‘ The Road Not Taken’

About The Poet Robert Frost

  • He was born in 1874.
  • Frost died in January 1963, after a major surgical operation, at the age of 88.
  • Robert Frost was an American poet of the 20th century.
  • He was absolutely a modern poet though some critics don’t think that
  • Some critics think that he was essentially a tradition poet.
  • Lionel Trilling referred to Frost’s sonnet ‘Design’ and ‘Department’ and called Frost a terrifying poet.
  • Though he differs in his attitude towards Nature from most of the Nature poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, or Shelley and Keats, he shows an abundance of evidence for us to regard him as a poet of Nature.
  • His first poem appeared in his High School Bulletin when he was fifteen.
  • Frost won many honours in the course of time. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for poetry four times, being the only poet ever to achieve this four-fold distinction.

Testimonial to the Poet:

President Kidney called Robert Frost “the great American poet of our time’, and describe him thus: “His life and his art summed up the essential qualities of the New England ” he loved so much: the fresh delight in Nature, the plainness of speech, the canny wisdom, and the deep, underlying insight into the human soul.”

Adlai Stevenson said, “In Robert Frost, the American people have found their poet, their singer, their seer- in short, their bard.”

Family Background:

Robert Frost was descended from a long line of New Englanders, but he was born in San Francisco, California, where his father, William Prescott Frost, had settled in search of his fortunes. His childhood proved to be somewhat strange, being blessed with parental love, but fraught with excitement and tragedy. Robert Frost’s mother was concerned about his health if he might have inherited his father’s tendencies to tuberculosis (TB). On several occasion, Robert had such severe colds that his mother took him out of school. At this time he shared the daily adventures of his father and began to acquire knowledge of the world. When he was eleven his father died of tuberculosis (TB) at the age of 34 and for this, his life’s freedom came to an end. Then his mother took him to New England.

Introduction of The Road Not Taken

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If you haven’t gone through “The Road Not Taken” yet, you will absolutely get a new scent when you do. The poem “The Road Not Taken” is one of the famous poems of the twentieth-century writer, Robert Frost. It was published in Frost’s collection “Mountain Interval” in 1916. In American schools, this poem is most taught poem along with another famous poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. “The Road Not Taken” is cited left and right by many inspirational writers and everyday people even after a century it was published.

We could go on and on worshipping how famous the poem is, you have already known. “The Road Not Taken” may seem to be easy and simple for the first time reading. But it has several meanings and complexity. You may take the poem with the problem of making a decision, probably right and perfect we face regularly in our private or public life. In a deeper sense, it is not a road which man always uses to move one place to another, it is life’s path in which a man is chosen to go on and reach his goal. In everyday’s life, it is must whether to choose path A that the poet describes as ‘trodden’ or to choose path B that poet says ‘not taken’ as you cannot go down both. Here the term comes limitation. For limitation, our people are unable to do something. One thing must be noted here that, both Roads are unknown and uncertain and aren’t seemed to be same to the poet (the speaker). If he knew the road which he was looking for; he might take the Road without any doubt. But the limitation is that he hadn’t the idea about the right one. The other limitation is that both Roads aren’t clearly visible so far. That’s why he is totally unable to say which Road will be perfect and right for him.

In a modern world, you may use your Smartphone to choose the right path using GPRS or Google map. But what if you don’t have? The answer is you must be in the problem of choosing which poet in. In the second sense, the poem is about ‘modern dilemma’. Because in the modern, world everything has its duplication. Everywhere you must choose among duplicate. You must be “Hamlet” whether ‘To be or not to be’. You will be deceived if you are not a good chooser. We have all to choose which college should go, which job should do, which girl should call for date etc. In the future what will be your feelings about your chosen path?

and Stanza-Wise Summary of ‘ The Road Not Taken’

In the final sense, the poem is about the poet’s own experience. By the time you must notice the title of the poem that is “The Road Not Taken”. That means the road or path is not used or travelled. He went through the road in which most people did not. It is risky to go such a way, I think. You may have faced some new problems in this unused road. Beyond this theory, he went through risky and ‘not taken’ way. If we go through Robert Frost’s life, we will find that in his life he was unsuccessful in the beginning. He tried different occupations. But he was not successful. Then he took the risky decision of following the career of a poet. He had to suffer in the beginning, though, but ultimately he was crowned with success in his career.

Stanza-Wise Summary of “The Road Not Taken” By Robert Frost

Stanza 1: (line 1-5):

Here the speaker is talking about a fork in the road or path. This is in a “yellow wood”. Here “yellow wood” refers to the fall and trees turning its leaves’ colour. He expresses his lack or limitation that he cannot go down both being “one traveller”. He wants to go down both. But it is beyond his capacity. That’s why he tries to be quiet sure before taking one.
He looks down ‘as far as’ he could until it bends ‘in the undergrowth’.

Stanza 2: (line 6-10):

After looking down one ‘as far as’ he could, he takes grassy one. But he doesn’t sure whether it better or not. Here is complexity. Although the optimistic readers think that the speaker takes the better path, he doesn’t say that. He mentions ‘as just as fair’ not fairer. Next line though, he says ‘the better’, it is ‘perhaps the better’.

Next, he says ‘it was grassy and wanted wear’. He didn’t find any difference before between the two paths. Here for the first time, we find the difference. But he is not sure which one is better. Here the word ‘wanted’ means lacked and ‘the passing’ means traffic that lack of passerby. The speaker is still confused about making a difference; he says ‘the same’. It seems that both paths are still the same to him; he cannot make any clear difference between them.

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Stanza 3: (line 11-15):

Here we also find him saying both paths are same ‘equally lay’. The setting of the poem is in the morning and the speaker is the first traffic in that fork of the yellow wood as he says ‘no step’. The speaker before said that one path is grassy and another is not but here he says that both paths are covered with leaves and ‘no steps’ is seen here. May be the leaves are not very thick or the grass sticks up between them or the speaker is not quite honest. In lines 13 – 15 we see that he is now confirmed which path he is going to use and keeps the other one for another day. It is actually a crafty way to deal with difficulties. He wishes to come back and will try another one later. But he is confused whether it would be possible for him to come back from where he started because one way may to lead to another fork and then another(in line 14-15)

Stanza 4: (line 16-20):

In this stanza, the poet talks about time ‘ages and ages’ here the line suggest that in future the speaker will tell the next generation that he made something different(maybe a success) from others using ‘less travelled’ road or way. Next in line 18, we find a repetition of the first line without the word ‘yellow’ and with extra words ‘and I-’ and in the next line we find which path he has taken. These two lines are significant because they bear the main concept of the whole poem. He took the ‘less travelled’ road. And in the last line of the poem, we find the outcome of his trial. He says this path made all the difference. But here again, it is not clear what difference. It may be success or failure. Optimistic readers will consider this successful difference though the speaker doesn’t tell this.

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