Robert Frosts’ poem “The Road Not Taken” was first published 104 years ago, back in 1916. The relevance and the impact of the poem, even today, continues to grow. The poem, today, serves as an embodiment of how it’s okay to go down, “the road less traveled.”
However, is that what Robert Frost meant when he first wrote the poem? Is that what he wanted people to take away from it? That sometimes, in life, we should take the unpopular route because it may better reward us. Did the ‘traveler’ in Frosts’ poem take a less traveled road, or was that something we made up our minds to be able to accept the decisions, whether good or bad, that we’ve made?
Let’s take a quick dive into some critical parts of the famous poem “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost and see what we can take away from it.
Frost starts off his poem by stating, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood / And sorry I could not travel both.” Robert’s choice of diction in these first two lines seem to be very strategic and intentional. He could have very well said,” two paths” (like most already people think he said), “two tunnels,” “two routes,” two anything honestly. Yet, he chose roads. So, what was the trajectory that Frost was trying to take with these carefully curated lines? Maybe, the traveler in this literary piece was walking in a forest line with yellowwood trees when they encountered a fork in the road. When faced with this dilemma, he understands that he cannot travel both “highways and can’t help but feel a wave of regret.
Robert then goes on to say, “And be one traveler, long I stood / And looked down one as far as I could / To where it bent beneath the undergrowth.” Here, we can see that the traveler wished he could travel both paths (and still be one person). These lines show us that the traveler understood how his decision would influence his future.
In the second stanza, Frost, begins by saying, “Then took the other, as just as fair / And having perhaps the better claim,” Did one road look more appealing than the other? Can we assume this to be true? As the poem continues, the author explains that the way had the better claim only “Because it was grassy and wanted wear;” However, he continues by stating that, “though as for that the passing there / Had worn them really about the same,” After reading the last two lines of the second stanza, you can begin to, not only visualize but, understand that ironically, the two roads had the same amount of wear. Based on that evidence, we can make an inference that both paths were equally traveled.
Delving into the third stanza, the lines that I would particularly like to highlight are, “And both that morning equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black.” So there these roads were, both equally untouched. I would also like to mention that Robert, in the final two lines of the third stanza. Understand that the decision that he made would influence his life moving forward. (“Yet knowing how way leads to way / I doubted if I should ever come back), which is why he questioned whether he should return to the other path to see where it leads. Yet, our focus throughout the poem is that one road was more traveled than the other but, here again, we see that that is not the case. To emphasize this point as well, during the final three lines of the poem, Frost says, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.”
So, why would the author go out of his way to make it seem as though, “the road not taken,” was the one less traveled. He explicitly states that both roads were equally worn. Therefore, if they have equal wear, how can we say that one had fewer travelers that the other. Or was this just something that we made up because we didn’t fully grasp the complexity of this poem. Who truly knows? Poetry is meant to be understood by each individual’s intellectual comprehension. We cannot fault others for only being able to see as far as they could understand.