AP Poem Analysis – The Roads We Take
“The Road Not Taken” – 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.
Throughout Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” the speaker explores the complexity of being faced with two choices, by being presented with two choices it is implied that one is superior whilst the other is inferior; however, Frost explores the idea that not one is superior to the other. Through the utilization of a constant rhyme scheme, symbolism, and a diction that evokes a sense of lamenting, Robert Frost is capable of creating such an image where one is faced with a dilemma and is beguiled by the complexity of having to choose.
In the first stanza the setting and the dilemma is immediately established; ‘two roads’ reveals that the speaker must choose one of the roads whereas ‘yellow wood’ denotes that the setting is in a wooded area during autumn which is often interpreted as a transition season, thus connecting to how one’s decision may easily lead to another. However, this is the only line that defines the entire forest which speaks to how one’s decision can ultimately transform their entire life. The aforementioned concept above is furthered in the last stanza as the speaker’s tone turns remorseful; ‘I shall be telling this with a sigh.’ In conjunction with the previously stated, throughout the third stanza, it is revealed that the speaker laments about taking the second path and desires to turn back, but the inevitable passing of time has prevented the speaker from doing so, ‘Yet knowing how way leads to way. I doubted if I should ever come back’ ; the use of the personal pronoun ‘I’ in this line leads the reader to emphasize with the speaker, through pathos, as it is known that many individuals have regretted the decisions they have made.
Robert Frost has intentionally used “road” to describe the path that he is taking, which speaks to the fact that roads are man-made, rather than using “path” or “trail,” thus intertwining the natural world of the forest with that of civilization. This reveals that the choices one may make are influenced by those who comfort us – the nature – and by those who push one to their limits – society’s influence. The rhyming scheme of the poem follows the ABAAB format throughout, except for a slight difference in the last stanza; it can be interpreted that “hence” and “difference” do not completely rhyme as the stressed syllables differ. This partial slant rhyme speaks to the speaker’s difference in tone as they have completely descended into remorse pertaining to taking the other path. Rhyme scheme also serves to add pleasure to reading “Road Not Taken,” as well as adding interest; whilst reading a poem in ABAAB format the lines are easily understood and can be read colloquially.
The complexity of choices and having to choose is a part of the human fundamentals as it is understood that everyone has to make a choice; whether that choice is to watch television or go to bed, or perhaps do homework over reading a novel – choices have always conflicted one’s mind. In Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” serves to explore and explain the choices we make through writing.