The Road Not Taken By Robert Frost: The Impact Of Simple Choices On One’s Life

Many small decisions are often made without much hesitation, as they are assumed to have little to no significance. Such may be believed to be true, but sometimes the smallest things may have the greatest impact. In Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” a deep and hidden meaning behind ‘insignificant’ choices is revealed through images of a forest, and created with a first conflicted and later peaceful mood as the speaker carefully makes a decision unaware of what it may bring, all while it is demonstrated that something overlooked as a simple choice may lead to immense change in one’s life.

Frost’s clever use of imagery is evident from the very beginning of the first stanza, which establishes a setting and introduces the dilemma the speaker faces. The poem starts off describing “two roads diverged in a yellow wood… be one traveller, long I stood,” presenting to the audience the speaker in a bright and lively forest with a path branching into two separate directions, being perplexed by which to follow. In sight, the two roads were described as different from each other, one being, “grassy and wanted wear,” whereas the other had a distinct path created by the footsteps of previous wanderers. Both roads share only one thing, they both, “bent in the undergrowth,” hiding what they may lead to, not allowing a glimpse at how long they are and what they may hold. Most travelling through the woods choose to follow the distinct path, as it is much easier to walk through, and many may assume it is the only path. Unlike the others, the speaker carefully makes a choice after trying to ‘see beyond’ what stands before them. The speaker then chooses to follow the road where, “in leaves, no step had trodden black,' expressing their individuality, and creating their own path and endless opportunities for their journey. After walking through the fresh leaves, footprints crumple those once untouched making the two roads the same, allowing future visitors the ability to make their own choices. The poem itself can be confusing, but with the help of imagery readers can picture the speaker’s experience, and better comprehend the choices made along with their deeper meanings.

Throughout the poem, Frost portrays both a conflicted and peaceful mood using associations readers bring from an effective selection of words to help further develop the expression and the deeper underlying meaning of the poem. Within the first stanza a positive atmosphere is created for the poem, when the setting is briefly introduced as being in a, “yellow wood”. The colour yellow is many times used to describe bright and cheerful things, and when hearing ‘woods’ one associates the word with growth, peace, and nature, therefore influencing a positive and calm effect on the reader.

After finding two separate paths, the speaker explains that, “long I stood / And looked down one as far as I could / To where it bent in the undergrowth,” inflicting a troubled and chilling mood unto the audience. A feeling of uncertainty is developed with the phrase, “long I stood,” which leads one to believe that the speaker stands there for a while looking at the path because they are unsure of which way to go. It is also assumed that the road may be long because hearing the words, “as far as,” makes the reader picture a path that stretches a great distance far ahead, too long to be able to see the end of. A long path bending into the undergrowth creates a chilling mood because of the fear of the unknown. If nothing can be seen past a certain point, one can be taking a risk walking through, leading a simple choice to great change. After making a final choice, the speaker is confident in themselves and begins to walk down the chosen path saying, “Oh, I kept the first for another day! / Yet knowing how way leads on to way, / I doubted if I should ever come back. ” implementing more hesitation into the mood of the poem. While walking down one path, the speaker is deciding that in the future they’ll walk the other, but quickly begins to doubt if that is a good idea because of the confidence they have in the road they’re on. The use of the word doubt, adds onto the hesitant and conflicting mood of the text because it is a word correlated with unsureness. At the end of the journey the speaker expresses how content they are because they took the road, “less travelled by, / And that has made all the difference,” restoring the previous mood of cheerfulness. Inserting the word, “all,” makes one believe that the difference made was important and beneficial, and also expresses satisfaction and delight in the poem. Frost chooses his words in a way that helps convey moods of unsureness and delight so the reader can better understand the hidden message of expressing themselves and making wise decisions.

Simple decisions such as choosing which path to walk through in a forest are not stressed and seem to have little significance, but with the use of allegory Frost demonstrates how in life many significant things are overlooked and have the possibility of changing you. In the poem both roads may just be roads on a literal level but they represent something much greater and more powerful symbolically. Having to choose between two similar roads reveals how in life there are many choices we must make individually without the influence of others, especially some of which seem as though they cannot affect us in any way. In choosing the road less travelled, something readers would not consider to be able to impact one’s life, the speaker displays strength and independence because they choose to not follow in the path of others but instead create their own. Making this decision, “has made all the difference,” the speaker grows as an individual and because of choosing to be themselves they are enlightened. When the speaker is saying, “oh, I have kept the first for another day! / Yet knowing how way leads on to way, / I doubted if I should ever come back” Frost shows someone considering to try following in others’ steps in the near future realize that they being themselves is like being free from a cage, whereas trying to fit in with others is like being held back in a cage. With the use of allegory presenting a double meaning of two roads in a forest, Frost establishes that something as simple as choosing which direction to go can have an enormous impact and a more significant effect than one may realize.

By creating something so simple with such a powerful underlying meaning, an incredibly important message of standing out from the crowd is delivered. A simple decision may come with a great outcome. Along with the use of troubled, and cheerful moods, Robert Frost paints a picture for readers of the power and significance of making our own decisions.

10 October 2020
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