The Road Not Taken
BY ROBERT FROST
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost’s poem. “The Road not Taken,” is about choices. Each day we have to make decisions as to what course of action to take. No matter what the issue is, we must decide what the best option is and go through the path in all faith.
The speaker beholds his choice when he notices that “two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” Each road represents a decision the speaker must make. He wishes that he could pursue both paths but painfully admits “sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler.” If he were able to choose both paths, he would be a complete “one” or singular individual; he would have nothing to regret or reflect on after he has made his choice. But since he must choose one path and not the other, he must become a divided traveler, doomed to wonder if the decision he made was the right one. Only time will tell.
And figuring out which path looks better does not help the speaker come to his decision any sooner. The first path “bends in the undergrowth” after he looks down it “as far as [he] could.” He cannot really know, based on hypothetical inquiries, whether or not the decision he makes will be beneficial or not. He can’t look into the complete future to know for certain. The other path looks better due to its grass, yet, since people have walked down the paths mostly equally (or because both decisions are somewhat appealing), they “looked worn really about the same.” But in the end, the speaker takes the second, “grassy” path. At first, he thinks he can choose the first path for another time but soon remembers how “way leads on to way.” Once he has made his choice, his life will undergo a series of events in time, forcing him to reach a point of no return. He will not be faced with the same choice again. The consequences of his actions will permanently affect his future decisions.
The last stanza is interesting, for the speaker uses the future tense to describe what he will feel when he reflects on choosing the grassy path. He will look on his past with a “sigh,” but whether or not it is a sigh of accomplishment or regret remains to be seen, for he is still, in the poem, traveling the path he has chosen. Only in the future will he know whether or not it was worth it. And the decision is not a minor one, for, no matter what the outcome, it “will have made all the difference.” What path he chooses will alter the course of his life forever.
But the fact that Frost presented this poem to a group of college students may hint that the choice the speaker made was a good one. It is “the one less traveled by,” meaning that it is not the most popular choice to make. Society deems it unworthy, at least in some respects. But because he made that decision, his life turned out well. What better way to encourage college students to pursue their dreams than to admonish them to take the most disciplined road to success?
Yet it may not be such a good choice after all. Again, the word “sigh” doesn’t hint at the speaker’s tone. What if the famous poet wanted to warn the students that the decision to go to college is not the best one to make, and, only by looking back will they realize that it wasn’t really as important as society taught it to be? One can relate to the current rise of disdain for public education and wonder. Either way, we must all suffer the consequences of our actions. It is inevitable. Let us hope that they are the best ones.