The Road Not Taken

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 wrote this poem in 1915 in England.  “The Road Not Taken” is one of his most well-known poems. Although commonly interpreted as a celebration of determined individualism, the poem actually contains multiple different meanings. The speaker in the poem, faced with a choice between two roads, takes the road “less traveled,” a decision which he or she supposes “made all the difference.” 

“Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it.” 

Vincent van Gogh

It is interesting to note that many people think this poems title is “The Road Less Traveled” and there may be meaning in Frost’s choice to name it “The Road Not Taken.”  Are we to look back and dwell on the “roads” we did not take in our lives?

In this poem, the speaker describes him or herself as facing a choice between which of two roads to take. This is a choice all of us are inevitably faced with throughout our lives.  As in the poem, our choices in life can be between ones usually taken by most people, and ones “less traveled” by the majority of people. In other words, the established or accepted roads as opposed to the atypical or unusual roads we can choose.  Do we value individualism or conformity to society?

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In this poem, the person realizes that he/she cannot know how things would have been different if the other road was taken. He/She imagines looking back on life from the future and realizing that the choice of which road made “all the difference.” This happens to us also.  We look back at the different roads we have chosen and wonder what would our life be like if we chose the different path. It is by looking back that we can sometimes understand how we ended up in our current situation.

As Frost says in this poem, it would be wonderful to be able to go back and take the other “road.”  How fantastic to be able to find out exactly what our lives would be like if we made different choices in our past. Unfortunately, the last time I checked, time travel is not possible so we will not have this luxury.

We can spend a lot of time focusing on the choices we made or did not make instead of deciding to fully appreciate and live the life we have chosen. It is important to look back and recognize the choices we had and to wonder what life would have been, but it is not healthy to brood on these thoughts.  We should learn from our past experiences so as not to repeat anything we wish were different.  In doing this, we will develop, flourish, and grow.

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“There are different paths to your destination. Choose your own path.” 

Lailah Gifty Akita

What we do have, however, is the knowledge that we are all living the best lives we can live.  We are all making the best decisions we can make. We are all doing the best job we can do.  This is enough!

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