Critique Of Frosts “The Road Not Taken”The speaker in Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” gives the reader insight into human nature with each line of poetry. While, Frost had not originally intended for this to be an inspirational poem, line by line, the speaker is encouraging each reader to seek out his or her own personal path in the journey of life. Romanticizing the rural woods of New England creates the perfect setting for the theme of self-discovery laid out and described by the speaker.
Robert Frost’s original intent in writing the poem was not to convey the inspiration that it has for almost a hundred years. He had written the poem to poke fun at his friend, Edward Thomas, with whom he had taken many walks. Thomas was hesitant and always wondering what would happen if he had chosen a different path (http://www.yoga.com/raw/readings/frost_road.html). In fact, Frost sent the poem to his friend, then in France, and got the response, “What are you trying to do with me?” (http://www.libarts.sfasu.edu/Frost/PopPoems.html). However, Frost did see the impact the poem was having and stated, “Do not follow where the path may leadGo instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
The speaker communicates many things in the first stanza of the poem. The first line, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” uses imagery with the color yellow, the color of gold, to show that the speaker sees an opportunity ahead of him. The two roads symbolizes the choices and consequences he must choose. The next line, “And sorry I could not travel both,” illustrates how difficult it is to make a choice. It is impossible not to wonder what could happen by choosing the other road and what he could be missing out on. “And being one traveler long I stood,” shows how the speaker would like to be in two places at once. Unable to accomplish this, he takes a long time to decide on what he should do. Finally, the speaker describes studying the first option, looking as far into the future as he possibly could with the lines, “And looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth.”
The speaker continues to convey his message in the second stanza of “The Road Not Taken.” In the opening line of this part of the poem, the speaker says, “Then took the other, as just as fair.” Here, he is turning his attention to the second road, his other opportunity, only to find it equally welcoming. However, in the next lines, the speaker sees the difference in the two that will eventually help him make his decision. “And having perhaps the better claim, because it was grassy and wanted wear,” shows that the speaker recognizes that this second path is not for everyone, nor is it popular. It will take him somewhere new and different. Also, the fact that this second road appears different is more cause for wondering what will become of him if he takes a chance on choosing this one. The final part of this second stanza, “Though as for that the passing there had worn them really about the same,” tells the reader that many people had stood in that very place, with the very same choice to make. The reader is allowed to feel a kinship with the speaker, knowing that at some point, we all find ourselves wavering between two choices and wondering if we should follow the majority or if the others had known something special when they chose to be different.
The speaker in the poem continues to wrestle with his decision in the third stanza. Even though many people had faced the same decision, the speaker is forced to make the decision for himself. The line “And both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden back,” illustrates that both roads had not been traveled on for a while since the leaves had covered the ground since they had fallen. The speaker cannot simply choose to follow the person who had gone before him because the choice will primarily affect him. Also, the line connects with the reader since, although other people may have had to make the same decision, sometimes people feel isolated when faced with a tough choice. The next line in the stanza, “Oh, I kept the first for another day!” expresses the speaker’s desire to go down both paths. At this point, he is leaning towards jumping on the bandwagon and following everybody else. However, the turning point in his internal struggle comes with, “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.” He is realizing that no choice is temporary, that he must face the consequences of his decision and not go back in time and do things differently if he is unhappy with what path he has chosen for himself. Also, he surely realizes that one path will lead to many others, that this first choice will affect every choice thereafter. There is pressure to choose wisely, a pressure every person feels at one time or another.
The speaker decides his fate in the final stanza. Although he realizes that he is taking a chance in this being a wrong decision and that he may regret it later, he accepts this fate: “I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence.” It is important to come to terms with the possibility, even the certainty of eventually regretting a decision and missing out on the other road and other opportunities. Nonetheless, the speaker is proud of his decision not follow the crowd. He recognizes that choosing the path he did, the road less traveled, helped him to become the person he is at the point of the writing. He chose to be his own man and not follow the crowd in the lines, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and II took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
Regardless of the original intent of the message, the speaker conveys the more inspirational message that taking the road he eventually chose made him the person he is. In being forced to choose and face the consequences, he was afraid to make a wrong decision. He is better off for having even made any decision at all instead of standing there, procrastinating. Although one person cannot take all the roads in life, trying to choose everything will leave that person just as empty as choosing the wrong path.
In finally choosing, he changes the direction of his life and encourages the reader to explore new territory or create something new. Above all, one has to be true to himself and follow his heart.
The speaker, throughout Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” is a way of identifying with the reader through basic human feelings and struggles. Everyone faces hard decisions and feels the struggle within to choose the right path on which to base his or her life. It is how we choose and how we deal with what is down the road that makes us who we are.
Baym, Nina, et. al. The Norton Anthology of American Liturature. 5th edition. Vol.II. New York: Norton, 1998.