Robert Frost’s the Road Not Taken
Tim Parr English 102 Professor Scollon “The Road Not Taken” Robert Frost, born March 26, 1874, is considered by most to be one of America’s leading 20th Century poets. Some of his most famous works include The Road Not Taken, Design, and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Frost won an unprecedented number of literary, academic, and public honors because he allows readers of different experience to relate to his poetry. Frost’s poetry is based mainly upon the life and scenery of rural New England and the language of his verse reflects the compact idiom of that region.
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Although he concentrates on ordinary subject matter, Frost’s emotional range is wide and deep and his poems often shift dramatically from a humorous tone to the expression of tragic experience. He uses vivid imagery, calm words, and rhythm that set a somewhat tranquil mood for every reader. He uses every aspect of the poem to play on the senses, through his creation of vivid images and varying moods. With all of these tools Frost intends to convey his own unique views as the speaker to his audience.
Regardless of the original message that Robert Frost had intended to convey, his poem, The Road Not Taken, has left its readers with many different interpretations. The poem is most commonly interpreted as an advertisement of individuality, but that definition is dependent on whether or not there is a road not taken in Frost’s poem. Many scholars believe that Frost was too ambivalent in his descriptions of the two roads, and have therefore challenged the existence of a less traveled road.
The poem simply takes a satirical look at the uncertainty of having to make choices at all, but one might argue that it urges readers, not to forge new roads, but to take pride in the ones they have already chosen. Frost begins The Road Not Taken by creating a mental image of a traveler stopped at a fork in a path, much like a person who is trying to make a difficult decision. The road that will be chosen leads to the unknown, as does any choice made in life. In an attempt to make a decision, the traveler looks down one road as far as he or she can. “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 under growth;” As much as he or she may strain his or her eyes to see as far as the road stretches, eventually it surpasses his or her vision and he or she can never see where it is going to lead. The speaker realizes that much like anyone making any kind of decision, their destiny cannot be seen, only the choices they can make. When the traveler finally decides, the lines: “Then took the other, just as fair And having perhaps the better claim Because it was grassy and wanted wear,” possibly describe the speaker’s innate desire to not necessarily follow the crowd.
This may be because of a feeling of unhappiness that was experienced by copying the actions of those before him or her, instead of making an individual decision. The desire to travel down both paths is expressed and not unusual, but the speaker of this poem realizes that the decision is not just a temporary one and “…doubted if I should ever come back. ” At the end of The Road Not Taken, regret hangs over the traveler. He or She realizes that at the end of life, “somewhere ages and ages hence”, the speaker will have regrets about having never gone back to explore the road not taken.
The traveler, however, remains proud of the decision and recognizes that it was the paths chosen that made life turn out the way is has. “I took the road less traveled by and that has made all the difference. ” In this poem there is no judgment, no specificity, no moral but simply a narrator who makes a decision in their life that affects the rest of its course. At least, this is what I personally take away from the reading of Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken. One of the great aspects of literature is that anyone can get just about anything they want to from any one piece of literature.
Now I will focus on some commentary from a few authors who knew Robert Frost more intimately than I do, and are well more qualified to provide analysis of his poem. In Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence, Elizabeth Shepley Sergeant locates in Frost’s letter Crossing Paths the source for “The Road Not Taken. ” To Susan Hayes Ward the poet wrote on February 10, 1912: “Two lonely cross-roads that themselves cross each other I have walked several times this winter without meeting or overtaking so much as a single person on foot or on runners.
The practically unbroken condition of both for several days after a snow or a blow proves that neither is much travelled. Judge then how surprised I was the other evening as I came down one to see a man, who to my own unfamiliar eyes and in the dusk looked for all the world like myself, coming down the other, his approach to the point where our paths must intersect being so timed that unless one of us pulled up we must inevitably collide. I felt as if I was going to meet my own image in a slanting mirror.
Or say I felt as we slowly converged on the same point with the same noiseless yet laborious stride as if we were two images about to float together with the uncrossing of someone’s eyes. I verily expected to take up or absorb this other self and feel the stronger by the addition for the three-mile journey home. But I didn’t go forward to the touch. I stood still in wonderment and let him pass by; and that, too, with the fatal omission of not trying to find out by a comparison of lives and immediate and remote interests what could have brought us by crossing paths to the same point in a wilderness at the same moment of nightfall.
Some purpose I doubt not, if we could but have made out. I like a coincidence almost as well as an incongruity. ” Elizabeth Sergeant Shepley ties the moment with Frost’s decision to go off at this time to some place where he could devote more time to poetry. He had also, she implies, filed away his dream for future poetic use. That use would come three years later. In 1914 Frost arrived in England for what he thought would be an extended leave from farming in New Hampshire. By all the signs he was ready to settle down for a long while.
Settling in Gloucestershire, he soon became a close friend of Edward Thomas. Later, when readers continued to misread “The Road Not Taken,” Frost insisted that his poem had been intended as a jest at the expense of his friend and fellow poet. For Thomas had fussed over choices of the most minor sort made on daily walks with Frost in 1914, shortly before the writing of the poem. Living in Gloucestershire, writes Lawrance Thompson, Frost had frequently taken long countryside walks with Thomas. Repeatedly Thomas would choose a route which might enable him to show his American friend a rare plant or a special vista; but it often happened that before the end of such a walk Thomas would regret the choice he had made and would sigh over what he might have shown Frost if they had taken a “better” direction. More than once, on such occasions, the New Englander had teased his Welsh-English friend for those wasted regrets. . . . Frost found something quaintly romantic in sighing over what might have been. Such a course of action was a road never taken by Frost, a road he had been taught to avoid. If we are to believe Frost and his biographer, The Road Not Taken was intended to serve as Frost’s gentle jest at Thomas’s expense. Most evidence supports the notion that Robert Frost was displeased with the persistent misinterpretation of his poem by analysts, and this is supported in his Biography as well by Lawrence Thompson in Selected Letters by Robert Frost. “A short time later, when “The Road Not Taken” was published in the Atlantic Monthly for August 1915, Frost hoped that some of his American readers would recognize the pivotal irony of the poem; but again he was disappointed.
Self-defensively he began to drop hints as he read “The Road Not Taken” before public audiences. On one occasion he told of receiving a letter from a grammar-school girl who asked a good question of him: “Why the sigh? ” That letter and that question, he said, had prompted an answer. End of the hint. On another occasion, after another public reading of “The Road Not Taken”, he gave more pointed warnings: “You have to be careful of that one; it’s a trick poem – very tricky”.
Never did he admit that he carried himself and his ironies too subtly in that poem, but the circumstances are worth remembering here as an illustration that Frost repeatedly liked to “carry himself” dramatically, in a poem or letter, by assuming a posture not his own, simply for purposes of mockery – sometimes gentle and at other times malicious. ” Even though The Road Not Taken was misinterpreted by readers and analysts as it was defined by Frost does not in any way dampen the meaning readers can take away from the poem. That is the beauty of poetry; it can have any meaning that anyone wants to assign to it…even if the author disapproves.
So again I will say that I view The Road Not Taken as a metaphor for the decisions you make in life. No matter how well you choose or don’t choose, you will always have regrets, but in the end hopefully you are pleased with the roads you have taken. Work Cited Sergeant, Elizabeth Shepley. Robert Frost: The Trial by Existence. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1960 Thompson, Lawrance. “Selected Letters of Robert Frost” Best of Frost. Shefali Tripathi Mehta and Anando Banerjee, Jan. 2000. Web. 17 Jun. 2011. <http://www. bestoffrost. com/what-inspired-the-road-not-taken/>.