The Road Not Taken Analysis by Robert Frost

This is the second segment of the complete analysis. You can read the first segment- The Road Not Taken Summary here. In this post we dived into The Road Not Taken Analysis which includes a detailed critical analysis, poetic devices used in the poem, central idea of the poem, tone and themes conveyed in the poem.

The Road Not Taken Analysis by Robert Frost

The paths that the poet must choose between in “The Road Not Taken” may be literal as well as symbolic. If Frost is to be believed, the poem means exactly what it seems to mean – about a walk along a forest trail. However, most readers have thought that the poet is actually talking about life, and how in life we must all make difficult choices. If we accept this interpretation, then we can read the poem in two ways. We can read the poem as meaning that whatever decision the poet took in his life was a final one, one to which he could never return and elect to choose the other alternative. In this case, the poet is filled with regret that the time for choosing has passed him by, and only consoles himself by saying he has made a good choice like in the story in which the wolf is happy with sour grapes as he is unable to reach sweet grapes that grow very high up in the trees. However, we can also read the poem to mean that he is truly satisfied with the choice he has made. In this case, when the poet revisits the episode in the future, he believes that even though he will not be able to make the decision again, his choice had mattered a great deal in his life. It has been beneficial for him to choose the path that others have not chosen, for that makes him unique. As the popular adage goes – those who are different do not necessarily do different things; they do things differently. As the worn out and less grassy path shows him, the decision he was faced with was not an unprecedented one; others had also had to make the same decision. However, the poet had made the less popular choice, and that is what has marked him as individualistic, and accounted for his success in life.

Poetic Devices in The Road Not Taken

Rhyme scheme:

Every stanza of “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost follows the same simple rhyme scheme – ABCCB. This rhyme scheme is elegant and can be appropriated to express almost any mood that a poet wishes to express, whether joy or sorrow. That is probably what makes this poem difficult to interpret, and one can never say with any amount of certainty whether the poet is satisfied with his decision to take the second path at the junction on the forest trail along which he is walking, or whether he regrets choosing it.

Rhetorical devices:

1st stanza:

Inverted sentence:  This rhetorical device is used when a poet changes the sequence of words in some line of his or her poem in order to maintain the rhyme scheme chosen by him or her. Frost uses this device in the third line of the first stanza of “The Road Not Taken” when he writes “… long I stood”, instead of writing “I stood (for a) long (time)” at the junction in the forest trail.

As you can see from a reading of this poem, Frost does not use too many rhetorical devices. His poetry is simple, and easy to follow. However, this does not make him any less great a poet than he is thought to be, and does not take anything away from his skilful writing. It is a gift to be able to say a lot by using as few words a she does, and we should appreciate him for the same.

Central Idea of the Poem

In “The Road Not Taken”, Frost is telling his readers that every decision (whether in the course of one’s travels, or in the course of life itself) needs to be made with careful consideration of the pros and cons involved in making either choice. Once the decision has been made, it can also be revisited, and you can gain some retrospective insight on it. You will probably be plagued with doubts and regrets at this point, but you must strive to be satisfied with the choice you had made.

Themes of the Poem

Careful decision-making: In this poem, Frost tells us that every decision we make in life must be made carefully. We may think that we can overturn all decisions sooner or later, but there is a point in life where we will realize that the decisions we make have consequences, and that some decisions can be permanent.

Avoiding herd-mentality: In this poem, Frost may be telling us that it might be hard to be different from others, but it is not a bad thing. While it’s easy to take the path that everyone before you has taken, that path will never will you anywhere new. It will not let you stand out. On the other hand, if you forge your own path in life, you will be able to innovate and that will most probably lead to success rather than failure.

Tone of the Poem

The tone of this poem is perhaps the reason that Frost believes that “The Road Not Taken” is the most misunderstood one among all his poems. Though the poem has a solemn tone, Frost claims that it was written in a light mood, and that it has no greater significance than that of a walk in which he had to choose between which path to take.

Conclusion: Like most of Frost’s poetry, “The Road Not Taken” seems to be a simple poem at a first reading. However, whether frost agrees or not, the poem is actually multi-layered and can be read as an allegory of life itself, and of the many crossroads that you must come to in the course of your life, and the decisions you must make as a result of that.

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