Central Idea:-A human being gets many opportunities in life. These choices and decisions shape up the life of humans. It affects not only his future course of life on this earth but also his spiritual life after death.
Summary of The Road Not Taken
The poem “The Road Not Taken’ has been penned down by “Robert Frost’. In this poem, the poet talks about making choices and the choices that shape us. The poet says that two roads forked in a small wood in autumn season. He was standing there but was in a dilemma which road to be opted for. Since he could not travel both the roads together; he stood gazing at the roads up to a point where the road bent behind the bushes. Finally, he decided to travel the other road which appeared to be as beautiful as the first one. It appealed him because it was more grassy and untrodden. Then as he proceeded, he discovered that both the roads showed equal signs of wear. As he moved on, he found fewer people had travelled through the road. After exploring the road, he decided to try the next road for the next trip. But at the same time, he knew that there was little chance of coming back since every
road lead to a new road. In the last stanza, the poet leaves a sigh and imagines himself at a time many ages from there. He says that he will recall his choice of selecting the path. It is his decision only that made the difference
and this decision affected not only his worldly life but eternal life as well.
EXPLANATION OF THE POEM
When we read the poem we become aware of a person who has two roads before him and can take only one road at a time. It is a common experience for a stranger in an unfamiliar place to find a road that forked in two different directions before him and to decide which one he should prefer that would take him to his destination. At its literal level, the poem illustrates such a situation but on deeper reflection, we discover a general truth regarding human situations where the problem of choice is one of the most difficult problems for man to solve.
Let us first read the poem to find its literal meaning. The poet takes up the metaphor of a road at the point of splitting into two separate routes. The poem opens with the traveller poet standing at the point of divergence. Since he is a lone traveller and cannot travel both ways, he has to make a conscious decision of choosing the right path. The poet has to make a choice whereby he can take one road but in the process would be required to forsake the other. This act of making the right choice is an ordinary experience in life. On an early morning the poet/speaker, while walking along a road reaches a point where the road goes in two directions. He is at a loss as to which direction he should take. One of the two roads seems to have been used more often by travellers but the other appears grassy and neglected. The poet is undecided for a moment because both the roads present him with equal prospects. He has to make a choice between the two alternatives. Casting his glance at the roads for a while he finds that the wood is ‘Yellow’, that is, the leaves are all yellow and orange in colour, suggesting the autumn season. As he looks at one road he finds that it has taken a curve and is lost to sight because of the thick growth of shrubs and other kinds of plants. He, however, decides to take the other road which is less frequented by travellers. To the poet /speaker, there is hardly any difference between the two roads. Both are lying unused on that particular morning and both are covered by yellow leaves. There is no sign of anyone trampling upon the roads so early. While deciding on the road he is to take now, the poet keeps the option open for using the other road another day. It appears to be a sudden decision taken impulsively without giving a serious thought. Besides, he has not seen any clear advantage or disadvantage in discarding one for the other.
Though the traveller poet expects to return to the spot some other day i.e., to travel the other road- the one he has rejected at the moment- there is an uncertainty about this happening in future because if we relate it to life we take decisions which cannot be revised and taking one road means not turning back in order to start another journey.
The following two lines make this point clear:
“Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back”
The poet/traveller would know about the results of his choice only in the future. He may even have to regret his decision. The choices in life may be either regretted or rejoiced later. There is always scope for doubt and uncertainty regarding our choice of action at a given moment. But this is a human predicament. We are incapable of foreseeing the consequences of our actions in a clear perspective. What really matters is the choice made at a particular moment. This choice will make all the difference in future.
It is thus a profound truth about human situations that has added to the poem’s deeper meanings. The literal is merged into the symbolic. The traveller is not an individual but a representative of mankind. The two roads acquire a deep symbolic significance as representations of choices in life about which human beings are so often confused, as the traveller in question. The traveller is not an individual but a representative of mankind. The two roads acquire a deep symbolic significance as representations of choices in life about which human beings are so often confused, as the traveller in question.
STYLE AND LANGUAGE
As mentioned earlier, Frost made use of the language of the common people in the composition of his poetry. In this case, his position as an American poet stands out in contrast with the modern European and English counterparts. He incorporated the speech patterns of New England into the process of versification, using and transforming them to create simple yet meaningful verses. He was more successful than most other poets in writing in a truly natural speech. Most of the colloquial rhythms were acquired during those years of farming in his Hampshire Farm. It is interesting again to observe that even in his manner of writing, Frost did not stick to any particular style of language. In his first collection of poetry A Boy’s Will, Frost wrote in consonance with the established lyric tradition of Walt Whitman. In the poem under discussion, we can clearly perceive instances wherein the poet has applied elements of ordinary speech into the metrical pattern. It seems as if the poet is captured precisely in the moment of retrospection. The poet verbally recreates the entire situation when he finds himself at the crossroads speculating over the question of choosing the right way. The style is simple and attracts our immediate attention. Yet there is an element of colloquialism, particularly in the line “Oh! I kept the first for another day”.
It is written in a conversational style. It talks about the sudden decision in favour of a particular road that offers no advantages or disadvantages to influence his choice. It is an involuntary, impulsive decision, so well suggested by the line. Another characteristic of Frost’s style is that when he sets out to describe an object or to convey the impression of a natural scenery he writes in a straight- forward manner. “The Road Not Taken’” has a simple style so characteristic of Frost and is marked by his use of simple and straight forward language. What is further seen here is an emotional restraint that makes his statement of the profound truth regarding the human problem of choices so simple and easy to understand.
Questions and Answers
Q. 1. Where does the traveller find himself? What problem does he face?
Ans. The traveller finds himself at a place where the road bifurcated into two paths. He is in a dilemma which
way he shall choose to go on.
Q. 2. What is the difference between the two roads as described by the poet in Stanzas two and three?
Ans. One road was grassy and less travelled by while the other was much
traveled and had turned black.
Q. 3. Which road does the poet choose? Does he regret his decision?
Ans. The poet chooses grassy and less travelled road, and it is only his choice that had made all the difference. Yes, he regrets his decision.
Q. 4. What is the rhyme scheme of this poem?
Ans. The rhyme scheme of the poem is: abaab,feele, efeef. He has enlarged the quatrain to the five-line stanzas to offer variety.
Q.5. What is the season of the year suggested in the poem?
Ans. The season suggested is Autumn.
Q. 6. Where does the traveller find two roads laying equal claims on him?
Ans. It is in the woods that the traveller finds the two roads ahead.
Q. 7. How is one road different from the other?
Ans. One road takes a curve and is lost to sight because of thick outgrowth of shrubs and plants and the other road is neglected.
Q. 8. Explain the meaning of the following phrases:
a) Yellow wood:- It means a small forest, where the foliage has turned
yellow, because of autumn season.
b) Bent in the undergrowth:- A point where the road bents behind the bushes.
c) Trodden black:- Turned black by being used much.
Q. 9. Explain the implication of the phrase ‘less travelled’.
Ans. Less travelled means a path that has been hardly frequented or explored by travellers.