Wednesday 13 May 2020

The Road Not Taken

The Road not Taken
                                    by Robert Frost

Analysis of the poem:

§  The poem ‘The Road not Taken’ is composed by Robert Frost who is a renowned American poet and better known for his nature poems with realistic themes.
§  The entire poem is an extended metaphor for life as two roads stand for choices offered by life and wood is presented as dilemma.
§  “The Road not Taken” begins with a dilemma ‘To be or not be” which has been a part of human existence since the mankind has evolved. Walking out, the speaker comes to a fork in the road and has to decide which path to follow.
§     The yellow leaves that cover the roads suggest that the poem is set in autumn.
§  After peering down one road as far as he can, the speaker chooses to take the other one, which he describes as ‘less travelled’ announcing that he has the courage to venture the difficult option and is willing to take the rare choice as he doesn’t wish to be a part of crowd. These lines have often been read as a celebration of individualism.
§  Frost claims he will be telling the story “somewhere ages and ages hence,” a typical beginning for a story.
§  Towards the end he brings out the central idea of the poem when he makes a confident statement, “I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.” Here, he established the importance of decision making and acting upon it rather than fussing over the results.


The theme is reflected in the central idea of the poem that a single decision can transform a life as tough choice brings a revolutionary change in life and moulds the personality.

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Autobiographical Element

The poem has got an autobiographical element as Robert Frost himself took a U-turn in his life. Earlier when American publishers refused to publish his poems, he moved to England where his poems got the readers and became most sought for.
After some time, he again decided to come back to his own country, USA as he wanted to be known and die as an American poet. It really needs lot of courage and faith in one’s decision. This decision of Frost sets him apart from other American poets and brings him reverence and prestige.

Poetic Devices

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood – Symbolism, Consonance, Imagery
I took the one less travelled by – Symbolism
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood                        Anaphora
And looked down one as far as I could
Then took the other, as just as fair – Repetition
And looked down one as far as I could – Repetition
Somewhere ages and ages hence – Repetition
And that has made all the difference – Assonance
I shall be telling this with a sigh – Assonance
Because it was grassy and wanted wear – Assonance, Alliteration
Though as for that the passing there – Alliteration, Contradiction
Oh! I kept the first for another day – Alliteration, Contradiction
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood – Refrain

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Questions – Answers

Q1. Where does the traveller find himself? What problem does he face?

Ans. The traveller finds himself at the diversion where the road forked into two. He is confused and unable to decide which road he should take to continue his journey.

Q2. Is there any difference between two roads?

Ans. In stanzas two and three the poet describes the first road to be clean, fair and just and quite different from the second road which was full of green grass and fresh leaves and would tire the travellers less. In morning both the roads were looking same but after some time first road’s leaves were crushed while second one was still fresh. In the last two lines it is told that many people have not walked upon second road as it was different and rare choice.

Q3. Does the poet seem happy about his decision?

Ans. We cannot tell, ultimately, whether the speaker is pleased with his choice or not as the word ‘sigh’ can be either sigh of relief or that of regret. But, the confusion is erased by the speaker when he claims that his decision has made ‘all the difference’. The speaker neither seems happy nor sad but quite confident and positive about his decision when he makes the confident statement, ‘And that has made all the difference’. He seems to be less bothered about the results and more concerned about the decision. He wants to tell the readers that he respects his decision and has confidence in his choice whatever is the result. The last line makes one thing clear that he certainly is not sorry about his decision whatever be the difference. 

Q4. What is ‘the difference’ that the poet mentions?

Ans. The reader cannot discern whether the “difference” evoked in the last line is glorious or disappointing. The word ‘difference’ itself doesn’t convey whether this choice made the speaker’s life better or worse. What is clear is that the act of choosing a different and difficult option will certainly bring a remarkable difference in his life.  ‘All the difference’ conveys the simple fact that choice is inevitable and decision making is more important. One should be ready to face the consequences – better or worse as the poet seems to be confident and respecting his decision and proving his identity as a unique person who doesn’t believe in following the crowd but be ‘diffenrent’.

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Q5 What do the last two lines convey? Does the poet regret his choice or accept it?

Ans. In the last two lines poem’s theme is conveyed as the poet tells his choice of second road which was a different and difficult choice mad his life different from the life of common and ordinary people. The poet doesn’t certainly regret his choice. He accepts his choice and is confident of his decision that it will bring a substantial difference in his life.

Q6. Justify the significance of the title ‘The Road not Taken’.

Ans. Indeed, the title of the poem ‘The road not Taken’ is about absence. It is about the choice the speaker did not make or could not make, which still haunts him. However, Frost refuses to allow the title to have a single meaning and he quotes, ‘the road not taken also denotes the road which is less travelled and the road most people did not take, the other road which was choice of very few people’. According to him, ‘No matter which road we take, we’ll always sigh about the road not taken by us, and wish we’d taken another.”


Then took the other, 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.

Q1. Who gave the traveller the better claim? Why?

Q2. What was the claim?

Q3. Explain the phrase 'wanted wear'.

Q4. What does the word 'though' suggest?

Q5. Pick out two poetic devices used in the third line.

Q6. Which road is being discussed, here? 


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.

Q1. Why did the traveller want to keep first road for 'another day'? What does it suggest?

Q2. Why did the traveller doubt his return to the first path?

Q3. What does the word 'yet' suggest?

Q4. What does the phrase “way leads on to way” imply?

Q5. What is the reason of poet's doubt in the last line?

Q6. Pick out a poetic device from second line.

Answers : 

RTC 1 

A1. The second road gave the traveller the better claim because it was grassy and less tiring. 

A2. The road claimed that since it is covered with fresh leaves and grass, he will feel less tired when he walks on it. 

A3. The phrase 'wanted wear' means 'to lack tiredness' (weariness) or making someone less tired. 

A4. The word 'though' suggests contradiction in the poet's thoughts. 

A5. Assonance and Alliteration are used in third line. 

A6. Second road is being discussed in these lines.

RTC 2 

A1. The traveller wanted to try out first road some other time though he had already decided to travel by second road. It  suggests that the poet is in dilemma. He being unsure due to the uncertainty in life thought to try first road also if the second doesn't happen to be the right decision for him. 

A2. The traveller doubted his return to the first road as it seems quite unpractical and impossible to take a U turn in life and start afresh with some other choice. 

A3. The word 'yet' suggests contradiction in poet's thoughts. 

A4. The phrase 'way leads on to way' implies that life is uncertain and unpredictable. one decision of ours may make to take another decision and one path may take us to completely different path. Sometimes, we go so far that we are completely stuck and unable to come back. 

A5. The reason of poet's doubt is that our life is uncertain and an ongoing process, it's not possible in life to take a U turn and undo something which is done.

A6. Imagery is used in third line.

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