Life has always been about dealing with choices. Some decisions to these choices are easy while others may be difficult to determine. The decisions people make in life will eventually thrust them into life situations and also shape their future in one way or another. Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” tells a story of a man who walks down a rural road and encounters a point on his journey that branches into two similar paths. He uses various symbols in the poem to highlight his life’s journey.
Frost uses a walk in the woods as a metaphor for the journey of life that must be taken. He later reaches two diverging roads in a “yellow wood” (line 1), suggesting the time for the narrator to make a decision between two or many options that life offers. Yellow can be seen as a bright color that not only emphasizes the significant dissimilarities, but also the separation between two roads, just like how we use the yellow lane on the road. The narrator wishes that he could take both decisions in life: “And sorry I could not travel both” (2). He soon realizes that the thought of traveling both roads is impractical. Therefore, he stares down one road, trying to see what the future holds for this road: “And looked down one as far as I could” (4). However, his sight is limited because he can only see the path until it bends into “the undergrowth” (5). In life, each road we embark on will never be just straight and predictable.
The narrator explains that he gives the same amount of thought and concentration to weighing out the choices he has to make. After considering the first road, he treads on the second one, which looks similar (6), although it is more inviting and has a “better claim” (7), because it is “grassy” – more pleasant to walk on. It “wanted a wear” (8). It seemed more deserving, although each road was worn “about the same” (10). The first road, although it looked the same and was traveled by just as much as the second one, seemed, however less inviting. The narrator does not hurry to make a choice and comes to the roads again in the morning, which looks the same, they “equally lay”. This is symbolic of the doubts that the narrator still has. The roads were covered by leaves with no footsteps on them (12); the leaves also concealed both the wear as well as the grass, nonetheless, the choice had to be made.
So the narrator chooses the first road(13), however, the exclamation mark and the sigh “oh” suggest that even at that moment he felt some regret, or, perhaps, he felt the pain of not going down an easier looking road. I think this even explains the poem’s title, “The Road Not Taken”, which is already suggestive of concealed regret about what it could have been if it were taken. However, once determined to follow through, the narrator knows that “way leads on to way” (14), meaning that there will be other choices he will have to make and it is unlikely that he would ever be able to return (15).
He also realized that as time passes, perhaps at the old age, “ages and ages hence” (17) he will have regrets about his choice because he “shall be telling this with a sigh” (16). When looking back at his past at the time he had an important decision to make, “Two roads diverged in a wood” (18), there is no one to blame for the possibly wrong decision (“and I – ” ) that “made all the difference” (20). There are times in life when people regret some decisions without being certain if they were wrong or right, but because their life would have been different, had they chosen another path. Many times there is a temptation to ask “what if”. Again, this is confirmed by the poem’s title. Also, looking into the past, the perception might be different from what the traveler saw at the time he had to choose the road. At the time roads looked “equal” and “as just as fair”, however, later the narrator remembers that he “took the one less traveled by.”
The narrator does not imply the choice of the road was bad, and the poem does not give any advice on what to do when there is a choice. It simply narrates that life’s path is often complicated by the choices one has to make. Those choices might look alike, however, they will “make a difference”, without being good or bad.