The Other Road in Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken
In his celebrated poem "The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost describes the decision one makes when reaching a fork in the road. Some interpret Frost as suggesting regret on the part of the traveler as to not choosing the path he forgoes, for in doing so he has lost something significant. Others believe he is grateful for the selection, as it has made him the man he is. The diverging roads are symbolic of the choices society is faced with every day of life. Choosing one course will lead the traveler in one direction, while the other will likely move away, toward a completely different journey. How does one know which is the right path; is there a right path? The answer lies within each individual upon reflection of personal choices during the course of life's unfolding, as well as the attitude in which one looks to the future.
David Wyatt writes, "Nowhere in Frost is the tension between surprise and anticipation, wayward experience and the form into which it is cast or forecast, more acute than in 'The Road Not Taken'" (129). As the poem is read, one cannot help but be pulled into the questions of which road will be chosen, how they differ, and what will become of the traveler. Perhaps some hope to find guidance for their own journeys by seeking answers in Frost's work. According to Michael Meyer, "The speaker's reflections about his choice are as central to an understanding of the poem as the choice itself." (97) Frost himself admits, "it's a tricky poem, very tricky." (Pack 10)
In the opening stanza, Frost describes coming to a point during a walk along a rural road that diverges into two separate, yet similar paths. The narrator finds that he must make a decision as to the path upon which to continue:
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;
Clearly the narrator anguishes over being in a situation where he must choose one or the other, yearning to travel both. He takes great care in making his decision, for he stays for more than a moment and contemplates, while looking down one path as far as he could see. Wyatt continues, "because this possible divergence confounds so broad a range of fears, so many modes of loss, we are not sorry to linger "long" with the speaker at the fork." (133) Just as the nature of his environment prevents his sight beyond a certain point along the road, one cannot see beyond the present to determine which choice would provide the most successful outcome.
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...