If you are one of those who see life as a journey, then Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken” is something that, whether you like poetry or not, you should reflect deeply. But what makes this poem special is that it highlights those moments when you, the traveler on this journey called life, have to make a very important decision. Before we can continue, let’s pause for a moment to reflect on one of Robert Frost’s most famous poems “The Road Not Taken“, which he wrote in England in 1915:
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
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.
This particular poem by Frost has been interpreted in many different ways, and there are those who simply understood it as something that celebrates badass individualism. But what is clear, however, is that the speaker of the poem is faced with a choice; he has to decide which way to go between two divergent paths he came across in the middle of his journey.
He looks at one until he sees nothing else, but chooses the other. And as he walks down, he plans to take the other path for another day, but doubts he will ever return since natural roads always lead to others. The traveler on the road is willing to tell this story about himself for centuries to come; that what makes the difference for him is when he chose the least preferred option.
Perhaps Frost has actually intentionally presented the elements of conflict in this particular poem to make it more intriguing and thought-provoking. And the conflict, as we can clearly understand, is between the right choice and the wrong choice. The poem makes you think about the choice you must make in life. Whichever path you choose determines your destiny.
But what about the path you haven’t chosen? Would you regret not taking the path that probably could also have offered you the best opportunities? And how would you know? The moment you made a decisive choice, would you stop to contemplate the decision you did not make?
Biographer Lawrance Thompson, who wrote a book on Frost’s life, has hinted that the poet wrote this piece to highlight a trait of his author friend, Edward Thomas. Frost described Thomas as someone who was always tough on himself, so no matter which option he chose, he would always punish himself for not taking the other. “No matter which way you go,” Frost once told Thomas, “you will always sigh and wish you had taken another.”
In life, you are often presented with options, causing you to make a decision. You must choose one direction or the other, but you cannot take both at the same time. But if the path you have chosen has brought all the positive changes in your life, then that is perhaps what makes the difference as what the poet is trying to convey in the last line of the poem.
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