Literary Analysis of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken

As a matter of fact we cannot help but start with the fact that poetry casts incredible spells over people, it bewitches forever. There is definitely some magic in the poetry as it is and in the way it can be perceived by different people in their own way.

Consequently, the poem under consideration The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost is widely quoted and may be interpreted differently depending on the readers’ mood and attitude to the events described in the poem. Not surprisingly, The Road Not Taken cuts a great number of people to the heart, as Frost applies to vivid imagery, calm tone and simple vocabulary setting a tranquil smooth-flowing rhythm which finally makes readers sad and pensive. The poet never moralizes about choice and teaches his readers, he merely hints them using subtle but powerful means of expression his point of view, which make the poem philosophical and thought-provoking.

Robert Frost claimed that the poem was dedicated to his close friend Edward Thomas with whom they spent time walking in the woods near London. Thomas showed Frost some paths and chose those which led to rare plants, the others remained untaken and Frost was worried if they chose the right direction. The poem was first published in 1916 and sent to Thomas for him to catch the pivotal irony of the work. Still more profound study of the poem makes us think that it is interrelated with the poet’s life, as he has always had two roads in life, having a choice of becoming either a poet or a teacher and was in two minds about it. This inner conflict may be related to The Road Not Taken, naturally, Frost’s long-term meditations echoed in many of his poems.

The title of the poem is the Road Not Taken is intentionally emphasized by Frost, as he never called it The Road Taken. He most likely feels remorse of impossibility to change what has already been done.

From the first lines of the poem readers plunge into the atmosphere created by the author due to the yellow woods originality and the leafy paths alluringly unfolding in front of the traveler. The cursory reading of The Road Not Taken gives us the general impression that the traveler is in two minds and chooses one of the two roads. In the first stanza the traveler describes his position, having two paths equally appealing to him. Then, he starts examining what can be seen, and looks down the first one “to where it bent in the undergrowth” (Frost 5).

The second stanza reveals the traveler’s independent free spirit, as he is committed to the decision he has taken and ready to follow the route chosen. Firstly, he hopes he will have a chance to be back and follow another path, then he finds it impossible to return to the fork someday. In the third stanza the traveler considers the possible differences of the roads in order not to be mistaken. Frost gives an idea that they “both in the morning equally lay” (Frost 11), as in the last stanza Frost seems to present readers with the main hint on what he wants them to realize: “I shall be telling with a sigh, Somewhere ages and ages hence” (Frost 16-17). Here lies the key clue why the poem is called tricky, the traveler has to choose the road and later on he will tell others of the choice he made but will hardly be able to change anything, as it will be a significant, crucial decision of all the life. Though he says, these roads are “all about the same”(Frost 10), still not the same, the readers are misled and puzzled with the metaphorical “with a sigh” which may mean a sigh of relief or satisfaction with the chosen road, then the difference means that the traveler is glad he took the road he did. But on the other hand, it may also be a sigh of regret and pity, a kind of nostalgic relief, as when people take up decisions they cannot be sure in what they will result in, they may only subjectively judge upon the situation. It is always a mystery how the choice may affect the future. So, the philosophical question raised by Robert Frost lies in the fact that we often have to take tough choices and roads with forks have figurative meanings symbolizing lifelines, we are free to make choices but are not aware of consequences.

Frost masterfully uses stylistic devices to impress the readers. The poet applies to alliterations: “wanted wear” (Frost 8) and “lay in leaves” (Frost 11), etc. and assonance in such words as: wood, stood, could; took, wood. He also uses the extended metaphor of the roads symbolizing the life choices and implying the whole life philosophy which varies depending on many factors. The images of the roads are so colorful that it seems they are personified and start to play a peculiar role in the journey of the traveler. We also cannot help but feel Frost’s irony in poems’ last stanza and his hyperbole: “Somewhere ages and ages hence” (Frost 17). The poem is composed in iambus; all the end (tail) rhymes are masculine.

The Road Not Taken remains inspirational and ironical. However, as wisdom proves, there are no right or wrong roads, they fall into the categories of chosen and untaken.

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