Poem “The Road not Taken” by Robert Frost
Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” is about the internal journey and conflict people face when they are standing in front of a difficult decision alone with no help or guidance. The speaker is walking in the woods when they come upon a fork in the road. Naturally, the fork in the road forces the speaker to have to choose which side to continue walking on, which is symbolic for choosing the path in life the speaker will take. The entire poem is an allegory for the “what if?” thoughts every person has when looking back upon the choices they have made. This essay will focus on the rhyming scheme and diction of the poem, as it is used to illustrate the internal growth the speaker goes through. Life is never easy and there are always going to doubts and regrets, however it is important to continue believing in yourself and enjoying the present because you cannot change that which you do not know is going to happen.
The diction Robert Frost chooses to utilize in the first stanza, and their connotations illustrate the overall steadfastness that the speaker has in his decision to walk down the less travelled path. Through the rhyming scheme ABAAB in the first stanza, Robert Frost rhymes “wood”, “stood”, and “could” in the “A” portion of the scheme (Line 1, 3, & 4). Wood is considered to be a strong and sturdy material for building with a connotation of being a tranquil and reflective place as the speaker walks through it. “Stood” is a word that has a multitude of connotations. Specifically in the poem it could be taken to mean standing firm in the face of uncertainty or standing around in either confusion or because of hesitancy. However, following the other diction choices and their connotations along with the thematic meaning developed in the poem, the connotation for “stood” most likely to be implemented by Robert Frost is standing firm in one’s decision. Lastly, “could” implies the possibility of something being attained. All of these diction choices in the first stanza help to set up the beginning of the storyline Robert Frost is telling through the poem. The uncertainty that life can bring because of difficult choices that have to be made every day that can define our futures in unimaginable ways. However, Robert Frost wants to communicate that no matter the choice that is made, there is always the possibility of achieving great things in life so long as you have trust in yourself.
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Robert Frost goes on in the second stanza to rhyme “fair”, “wear”, and “there” (Lines 6, 8, & 9). “Fair,” is used to describe both the paths as equal in terms of visible looks. What Robert Frost meant with that is there is no clear and definitive wrong answer. Life is never only black and white, and people cannot see the future. All people have to work with when making decisions is how things appear in the moment. However, looks can be misleading which the speaker is aware of, leading to the hesistancy on the speaker’s end to choose a path. In line eight of the poem, “wear” can be associated with the amount of other people besides the speaker who have trodded down each of the paths. While both paths are described as being equally worn out, one of the paths seems to call to the speaker to be worn out by them specifically. This feeling, or gut-instinct to put it in layman’s terms, is used by Robert Frost to illustrate the trust the speaker has to have in himself to make the best decision. Lastly, “there,” is used to support the statement about how in reality both paths are equally worn out because lots of people face the same decision as the speaker every day and each of them have made a choice. Each of these words were selected by Robert Frost to illustrate his point that nobody is completely certain about what the future holds in store for them, but in order to make it safely out of the woods the speaker has to have faith in himself and the strength to not get distracted by what the other potential outcomes could be waiting on the other path.
The message in the rhyming sequence continues into the third stanza of “The Road Not Taken”, with the use of “lay”, “day”, and “way” in lines eleven, thirteen, and fourteen. “Lay” in the poem is used to reaffirm how no one else has come upon the same fork in the road and left footprints that could influence the speaker’s decision. Because there is no other sign of human habitation in the poem besides the speaker, Robert Frost is trying to tell the readers that sometimes you have to decide your future on your own, based on which path you think is best. Other people are not always going to know what is going on and therefore could potentially persuade you to walk a path that is not right for you. In line thirteen the rhyming word is “day”, which is used in the context of the poem to show that the speaker’s decision has to be made immediately, but also to convey the fact that Robert Frost does not want people to worry about the permanency of decisions like the one the speaker faces. Though it may be hard, Robert Frost wanted his readers to know that it is possible to walk bath through the woods and choose to go down a different path if the one they are on no longer suites them. Furthermore, “day” can be taken to represent man’s curious nature and how the speaker wants to go down the other path another day just to see what is there. Lastly, “way” represents the doubt the speaker holds as to whether looking back on their decisions like that is truly best, or if it would just lead to an unpleasant and foolish obsession over every possible “what if?” scenario that comes up for the rest of the speaker’s life. The speaker is doubting whether their curiousity will help or hurt them and instead chooses to focus on the here and now as they continue on their chosen path.
In the final stanza, the journey in the rhyming scheme continues. It is the concluding stanza of the poem and it summates the feeling the speaker has when they look back upon their choice of path to walk down. “Sigh”, “I”, and “by” at the ends of lines sixteen, eighteen, and nineteen individually seem like they are used to express the uncertainty the speaker has in their past decisions on whether or not they were the right ones to make. “Sigh” is an expression of tiredness or exasperation, and it is used in the final stanza to show the weariness of the speaker after making all of these important decisions on their own. After a while, the doubt and anxiety can get to anyone, including the speaker, but Robert Frost wanted to show to the readers that they must continue on anyways. “I” was intentionally used and repeated to drive home the point that Robert Frost is making about self-reliance and independence. The speaker emphasizes that they, and they alone, were the one to make every decision from the beginning. The speaker chose which path to take and in turn chose which kind of life they were going to lead. The key part is that the speaker relied on themself and trusted the feelings and instincts that guided their decision. Which is the same trust Robert Frost wanted his readers to have for themselves. Lastly, “by” in the second to last line of the poem is used as build up of suspension. Paths that are less travelled usually have the connotation of being difficult or a dead end, seeing as how fewer people walk down them. In the poem, it is used to express the individuality of the speaker, and how they intentionally chose the less-travelled path on purpose. Perhaps the speaker liked the idea of any potential challenges, or perhaps it was pure curiosity as to why fewer people chose that specific path. Either way, the risky choice of an unkown path is intended to create a sense of suspense in the reader as they are unsure how the choice played out for the speaker in the poem. This was a deliberate choice by Robert Frost as he wanted his readers to understand that life is also unkown and risky, so it is understandble to be scared of new opportunities that may arrive.
However, when put in context with the final line of the poem “And that has made all the difference”, the ending rhymes take on a new meaning (Line 20). Now instead of uncertainty, the rhyming triplet could be taken to have almost a smug or bragging tone as it seems like the speaker is trying to subtly show off how well their decision worked out for themselves. Robert Frost intentionally did that, so the readers would pick up on the confidence the speaker holds in themself. Robert Frost wanted to imbue that same confidence into his readers as a sense of comfort and almost a boost to their own self-esteem in an ateempt to aleave some of the doubt they may harbor in themselves.
This dramatic journey through the woods is supported by the other half of the rhyming scheme throughout the rest of the poem. During the “B” lines of the rhyming scheme, Robert Frost uses “both” and “undergrowth” which imply the possibility of progress and additions to the speaker’s life as opportunities and possibilities lay in front of them at the fork in the road (Lines 2 & 5). Furthermore, “wood” and “undergrowth” work together to symbolize the strength and wildness of the speaker’s decision, while also illustrating the forest setting. In the second stanza, Robert Frost rhymes “claim” and “same” (Lines 7 & 10). This rhyme alludes to the fact that both the paths of the fork appear to be the same at frst glance, but the speaker feels that the less travelled path may be better for them. In the third stanza, the use of “black” and “back” can be taken as the self-doubt the speaker has in their decision as they walk down their chosen path because there are not helpful footprints to follow or guide the speaker. Instead the speaker has to forge on through the woods and its hidden mysteries on their own. The pressure of the potential outcomes of the speaker’s decision leads them to wonder if they should go back. In the final stanza, the speaker uses “hence” and “difference” (Lines 17 & 20). This rhyming pair is the final stage in the long internal journey the speaker takes from uncertainty to certainty. While the speaker started out unsure of themself, by the end the speaker had full confidence and trust in their decision to chose the path that they did. In fact, the speaker is so sure of themself now that they predict later on in life they will tell this story to other people as the defining moment of their life. The defining moment that led to every great moment down the road. That is the take away Robert Frost wanted his readers to grasp, to have faith in yourself and to be optimistic in the face of uncertainty. Why worry about the unknown when you can enjoy the present?
Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” represents a common and important component of everyone’s life. Decisions are made every day hundreds of times per day. However, we do not know which ones will affect us long term and what their consequences will be. Robert Frost recognizes this and creates an allegory in this poem from the perspective of a person who came upon such a life-altering decision. Ultimately, the speaker wants to be able to travel both paths, to see which is better, but this is not possible with many life decisions. Instead, Robert Frost guides his readers through the internal conflict the speaker faces so that the common reader will feel a sense of connection. This connection will form a lasting impression on the reader, so that when they too reach a difficult decision on their own path, they will know that they should have faith in themselves and trust their instincts. Because in the woods, doubt and uncertainty will kill you quicker than anything else.