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Poetry Analysis of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost
Category 1: Subject of the Poem
Even though people tend to overlook this part of the poem, the title is perhaps the biggest giveaway, especially with The Road Not Taken. Many people have the idea that The Road Not Taken is a nice poem about being different and taking the road that no one else takes. About nonconformity, about being unique. However, if one of these ignorant people took one close look at the title, they’d realise they’re wrong. This poem is called The Road Not Taken. Not, meaning the person in this poem didn’t take a road. The last line of this poem, “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” leads people to the nonconformity conclusion. However, previous lines in poem make this line more clear and one is able to see the opposition the usual conclusion has. Of course my original thought of the poem was the same as everyone else’s that the poem was simply about being unique. However, will some careful analysing and help from peers, I’ve come to a much different conclusion. With the lines four and five in the second stanza, “Though as for that the passing there had worn them really about the same.” Here we realise that there is no ‘road less taken’ and that in fact, the road are so similar there really is no difference between them. So then, what is the point of this poem? The idea of nonconformity is gone because there is no theme of nonconformity present, therefore, the actual theme is indecision, because as the title helps explain, no road is taken. Therefore, two very similar roads (or choices) are in front of the narrator, but he has to make a choice in order to move forward. He can stand there as long as he likes, but sooner or later, one has to make a decision. However, what is stopping the narrator from choosing? What is stopping him from just picking a random road and going along with it? The fear of regret. The fear, that he will take one road and it won’t turn out so great, and he’ll wonder, what if things had been different…better, had he chosen the other road? Especially with the two roads appearing so similar, there is no obvious choice, making the fear greater and the choice harder. So there he stands, taking no road at all. We can tell the author is very regretful of not making a choice, because of third stanza first and second lines, “I will be telling this with a sigh, somewhere ages and ages hence…” Sigh, gives us the emotion of regret, the wishing feeling that the author had made a choice, because doing something even if it’s the wrong choice is better than doing nothing at all. The ages and ages hence, while a hyperbole, also gives the impression that in the future, he knows he will still be regretting what he is doing now. Regret choices or lack of them that he made. With that, we know this author regrets a choice that was never made, and with the wish that he’d gotten over the fear of regret and made a choice, moving along with his life.
Category 2: Context of the Poem
Robert Frost was born in 1874 in San Francisco, California. However, ‘home’ to him is New England specifically Massachusetts. He moved there with his mother as a child after his father’s death. Frost had much financial difficulties until he decided to move to England in 1912 at the age of 38, where he was able to begin publishing his work overseas. He then became popular in America as well, and moved back there in 1915 at the age of 41. He wrote The Road Not Taken in 1916 at the age of 42. With the theme of indecision that goes along with this poem and with the age that Frost is at, one can wonder if perhaps he is regretting earlier decisions that he never really made. For example, Frost when to university on and off, never obtaining a degree. Other symbolisms within the poem suggest that Frost felt that he was nearing the end of his life, and was regretting decisions that he never made. Perhaps never obtaining a degree was one of them.
There aren’t really any allusions in this poem.
Category 3: Form of the Poem
In the poem, The Road Not Taken, there are four stanza’s with five lines each. Few rhymes occur, such as in the first stanza, lines one, three and four rhyme with the words, wood, stood and could. Lines three and four make a couplet. In the second stanza, lines two and five rhyme, (claim and same) and line’s three and four rhyme (wear and there). In stanza three, lines one, three and four rhyme (lay, day and way) and lines two and five rhyme (black and back). Lines three and four make a couplet. Finally, in stanza four, lines one and five rhyme (hence, difference) and lines three and four rhyme (I and by), making a couplet. The rhyming of this poem proves to be fairly irregular, however the rhythm of the poem is still quite nice, and pleasurable to read. There is a certain order of the stanza’s. The first stanza gives back ground of the situation, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” As well as the reference to one of the choices, or roads, one that bends in the undergrowth. The second stanza describes the second road, as well as the fact that the two roads are basically the same. The third stanza lets the reader be aware of the fear of regret, and the doubt the author feels with making these decisions. Finally, the fourth stanza gives us the final outcome; the author’s fear is two much and is stuck with the reality of his indecision, and the regret he feels towards it. This chronological order of the poetry gives the reader a better sense of the situations faces and then the emotions the author has for it, rather then giving the authors emotions and then the situation. This poetry is basically a narrative, only instead of an actual roads and an actual story taking place, it’s the ideology of choices that once must face in life.
Category 4: Word Choice of the Poem
Words that are important to understand in this poem are diverged, yellow, undergrowth and trodden. Diverged, undergrowth and trodden are just vocabulary words one should know the meaning of. Diverged means to split into two different ways, which is important in regards to the roads. Had the just been two straight roads, they would have most likely gone off in the same direction, and there wouldn’t really be any choice, since these two roads go off in different directions, there ending-up points would be different therefore making there be a choice between two roads that appear the same. Undergrowth is essentially just bushes and vegetation that grows beneath the trees. This also is important, because it belongs with this line in the first stanza, “to where it bent in the undergrowth.” which lets the reader be aware of the fact that the narrator cannot see what is on the other side of the roads, so he cannot be sure where he will end up either way. This relates the poem to real life choices and decisions, because unless you have a crystal ball telling you where each decision will take you, one can never be sure of where you’ll end up. Trodden just simply just the past tense form of tread. While tread simply means to step on something crushing what ever it is one is walking on is the definition, the importance of the word Trodden is the fact that it’s in past tense. Amongst other words in this poem in the first three stanza’s. For example, in stanza one, all verbs are in past tense, (diverged, stood, looked) as they are in stanza two (took, was, wanted, had worn) and stanza three ( trodden, doubted). However, in the fourth stanza the tense changes to future, (shall, telling) to give us the speculation that the narrator is, in fact, the same place he was in the beginning. He has made no choice, and knows he’ll regret not making a choice later, however, he knows he can’t since he is paralysed by the fear of the wrong choice of the two similar things. Yellow, as I said before, is another word that should be looked at. Not because it’s a mere vocabulary word, but because this word carries a symbol along with it for the poem. When a wood is yellow, and along with the fact that there’s obviously leaves on the ground (stanza three, line two) it is apparent that the season is autumn. Autumn comes right before the season winter, which is a symbol for death. Therefore, one can assume that the narrator is at the end of his life, and is still frozen by the fear of missing out on one choice, and is therefore getting the double whammy of choosing neither missing out on both, causing a mass contradiction and a bit of a paradox. It also then brings the statement in stanza four line two to attention, because a hyperbole is mentioned, “somewhere ages and ages hence” well, this narrator doesn’t have ages and ages left in his life, so it is merely the wishing that he had more time to choose, but none the less, that is not the case.
Yellow also brings up another symbol, because it is a colour often associated with cowards. You can be made aware of the poets apprehension and lack of self-faith to choose the right choice because of words such as “And sorry I could not travel both” ( stanza one line two), “Doubted if I should ever come back.” (stanza three line five), as well as with the stutter of ‘I’ in stanza five line two and three “Two roads diverged in a wood and I- I took the one less traveled by.”
Roads are another act of symbolism. The author is not actually literally talking about roads one walks on, but more of the choices. You have two choices, two that appear to be the same, but in reality each will get you different places, you have no idea where or when. So, what do you choose? The question not even the narrator himself can decide.
Difference, in the very last line of this poem is another contradiction. There really isn’t a difference in the choices, so what difference is the author speaking about exactly? It can be taken in two ways. One, Frost is merely mocking the unconformity one seems to adhere with these poems, and bringing out the fact that with everyone being so-called different, aren’t you really just all being the same? Which also coincides with the roads being another symbolic peace. Also, the word difference can help bring out the fact that choosing a road, actually being making a choice and being no longer in indecision would make all the difference because you’d actually be moving along with your life.
This poem doesn’t really have any metaphors, similes or personifications.