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"The Road Not Taken" is a narrative poem by 20th-century American poet Robert Frost

The Road Not TakenEdit

Fall landscape

Fall Landscape, 2012. Photo by Mimi Loz. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.


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,

Robert Frost reads The Road Not Taken01:05

Robert Frost reads The Road Not Taken


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.

AboutEdit

The poem was the first in Frost's 1916 collection, Mountain Interval. The title is often mistakenly given as "The Road Less Traveled", from the penultimate line: "I took the one less traveled by".

"The Road Not Taken" is a narrative poem consisting of four stanzas of iambic tetrameter and is one of Frost's most popular works.

InterpretationEdit

The poem has at least two interpretations: a popular interpretation that reads the last lines of the poem literally, as an expression of individualism; and an ironic interpretation, offered by many critics, that reads those lines as ironic in the context of the poem as a whole.[1]

Popular interpretationEdit

According to the popular interpretation, the poem is inspirational, a paean to individualism and non-conformism. Popular interpretations take the last two lines literally, as meaning that the speaker was a courageous nonconformist in taking a road few other people had taken. As a popular symbol of that attitude, Frost's mythical "Road Less Travelled" ranks after only Thoreau's "different drummer."

Ironic interpretationEdit

The ironic interpretation, widely held by critics,[1][2] is that the poem is instead about making personal choices and rationalizing our decisions, whether with pride or with regret. In this view, "The Road Not Taken" "is perhaps the most famous example of Frost's own claims to conscious irony and 'the best example in all of American poetry of a wolf in sheep's clothing.'"[3] Frost himself warned "You have to be careful of that one; it's a tricky poem – very tricky."[4] According to Frost the poem is intended as a gentle jab at his great friend and fellow Dymock poet Edward Thomas, with whom he used to take walks through the forest (Thomas always complained at the end that they should have taken a different path); he seemed amused at the interpretation of the poem as inspirational.[5]

In the ironic interpretation, the final two lines:

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

are not what happened, but what the speaker will be saying "ages and ages hence." Whatever difference the choice might have made, it could not have been made on the non-conformist or individualist basis of one road's being less traveled, the speaker's protestations to the contrary. The speaker admits in the 2nd and 3rd stanzas that both paths may be equally worn and equally leaf-covered, and it is only in his future recollection that he will call one road "less traveled by."

The sigh can be interpreted as one of regret or of self-satisfaction; in either case, the irony lies in the distance between what the speaker has just told us about the roads' similarity and what his or her later claims will be. Frost might also have intended a personal irony: in a 1926 letter to Cristine Yates of Dickson, Tennessee, asking about the sigh, Frost replied: "It was my rather private jest at the expense of those who might think I would yet live to be sorry for the way I had taken in life."[6]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 William H. Pritchard. "On "The Road Not Taken"". University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Department of English. http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/frost/road.htm. 
  2. Sullivan, John Jeremiah (August 2000). "The death of the hired poem: Robert Frost, Monster.com, and the anxiety of affluence". Harper's Magazine. http://harpers.org/archive/2000/08/0066909. Retrieved 2008-06-23. 
  3. Kearns, Katherine (1994). Robert Frost and a Poetics of Appetite. Cambridge University Press. 
  4. Lawrance Thompson, ed. Selected Letters of Robert Frost. New York: Hold, Rinehart and Winston. p. xv. 
  5. Pritchard., William (1984). Frost: A Literary Life Reconsidered. 
  6. Finger, Larry L. (November 1978). "Frost's "The Road Not Taken": A 1925 Letter Come to Light". American Literature 50 (3): 478–479. doi:10.2307/2925142. JSTOR 2925142. 

External linksEdit

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