A Critical Analysis of Robert Frosts The Road Not Taken
It is truly incredible how a relatively small poem of only four stanzas has grown to being considered one of the great illustrations of American poetry. In the poem, The Road Not Taken, the poet, Robert Frost, brings his readers on a walk to a fork in the road and asks them to answer the question, Where do I go next? with a simple answer, Go left or right. However, when one looks below the surface, he realizes that Frosts poem really presents the reader with a question about life. Using the poetic devices of symbolism, imagery, tone and setting, the poet creates a metaphor that transfers the reader beyond the actual footsteps on a path to ones journey through life and the importance of making good choices along the way.
The first stanza of the poem opens with the line Two roads diverged in a yellow wood (The Road Not Taken). From the use of the word yellow , we sense that it is either spring or fall, a calm and pleasant time of year; a setting that makes the traveller want to continue the journey. The trees at the edge of the forest seem to create boundaries telling the reader that the traveller must choose one path or the other and wishes he could travel both, while the two roads symbolize the choice and consequences of his selection. Another example of symbolism in the first stanza is And looked down one as far as I could / To where it bent in the undergrowth. This shows the traveller trying to look further into the future to see what each path might hold for him. He examines one choice as best he can, but the future represented by the bend stops him from seeing where it leads. The next example of symbolism is Yet knowing how way leads on to way / I doubted if I should ever come back. The traveller knows that he will probably never get the chance to come back and travel the other path, and that he realizes that his choice will change his life forever. A final example of the use of symbolism is in the poem is Two roads diverged in a wood, and I - / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference. This symbolizes the traveller belief that he has led a good life, and that he did make the right choice.
There are many examples of imagery including the use of yellow in the first line, representing that the traveller has a bright future no matter which path he chooses. The undergrowth is usually not a pretty place, but is not necessarily unpleasant. It could represent a part of the future that might not be bad, but just something the traveller will have to face along his journey. The image of travelling through the forest on a bright yellow or sunny day also could be thought of as his lifes journey. The image of the sun casting shadows through the trees might represent the ups and downs that all travellers experience. The first line of the last stanza creates the image of a traveller who is telling the story of his journey, and can interpret the sigh as either expressing regret or relief but either way it is has made him who he is. The second line of the last stanza, Somewhere ages and ages hence: gives the reader the image of an older traveller who has earned a good living and made the right choices.
In The Road Not Taken, the travellers tone and setting are very important in helping to explain the struggle a person might go through in picking the right road to travel, the road that they think will lead them to happiness. At the end of the second stanza, the traveller states that there was really not much difference in the two roads, and that neither had really been worn by traffic, but that the one road wanted wear. The travellers tone changes here to a more confident and less confused man than he was earlier in the poem. In line eight, the traveller says Because it was grassy and wanted wear, it shows that the traveller may not want to be like everyone else, a follower, and instead he chooses a different road and becomes a leader. The tone changes again in line one of the fourth stanza when the sigh is used to show how his journey has not been easy, but changes again back to confidence in the last line of the poem where it seems he is happy with where life has taken him when he says And that has made all the difference. The setting in the Road Not Taken is also very important. The first line of the poem, Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, is a metaphor used by the author to represent life. Using this image helps to better understand the difficulty the traveller is confronted with. Life is like the woods because no one can really knows what the future holds for them, you can only hope that you choose the right road and it brings you happiness. The description of the woods is also used to describe the uncertainty of the traveller, and implies that he may be scared to choose any path. All he can do is take a chance, choose one and hope he chose wisely, which is what he does when he looks down the first road, at the end of the first stanza.
In conclusion, the author of The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost, uses symbolism, imagery, as well as tone and setting to create a metaphor that transfers the reader beyond the actual footsteps on a path to ones journey through life and the importance of making good choices along the way, leading them in the end to happiness.