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Why Robert Frost took the road less traveled

Why Robert Frost took the road less traveled

An Personal Analysis of the Road not Taken

What do his words really mean to me?

A path in the forest. Two roads diverged in the wood. For an analysis of Robert Frost's poem the road not taken.

“The two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference.”

– Robert Frost (The road not taken)

After reading this poem a few times, it is right for one to wonder what exactly Frost was thinking when he etched these simple yet convincing words onto his paper.  This poem has become a source of inspiration for millions who look to his words as a way of being ‘adventurous’.  I think that Frost’s message for us goes deeper than just adventure.  I think that he realized much about life, and the path that it has set for us.

The above excerpt presents the reader with a choice between two separate paths.  Both leading to different outcomes.  The first path, the most taken.  Is trusted, tried, and true.  We know that it is safe, and leads to ease of living.  The second path, is not tested.  Few take the path because there are unforeseen obstacles lurking in the shadows.

Frost, expressed how he took the road less taken.  One he knew would be more difficult.  One he knew would have ups and downs.  One he also knew would be an adventure.  A journey of a life.

A hiking trail in Ireland

I find his concluding statement in that sentence to be the most inspiring.  “That has made all the difference.”  To me, Frost’s statement here is a statement of rejoice.  Expressing gratitude for all the turmoil and challenges that life has thrown at him.  He could have lived the easy life, he could have settled for something less, but he didn’t.  He went above and beyond.  He tested himself, and he was a better man for it.

Frost is known for the last two lines of his poem, but there are other great one liners, such as “long I stood” or “sorry that I could not travel both.” Even the two lines, “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back,” express his deepest thoughts and convictions.  See, I think that Frost knew the consequences of his decision.  Every life decision has consequences.  He stood long pondering for he knew that his decision would be final.  We cannot choose two paths in life.  We must choose the one we see fit and do our best to make it work.  As he said, “way leads on to way,” not everything in life is an end, but everything builds off of something else.  He also knew that once he exposed himself to the untamed, he’d never be able to return to simplicity.

In many ways, I think that travelers face the same dilemmas.  We are often torn between choosing a life path that best suits us.  On the one hand, we see what average people in society do. On the other, we see a destiny of dreams before us.  We see everything that we have ever dreamed of being and more.  It is just often difficult to work towards, which is why we ‘stand’ for so “long” pondering our outcomes.  When we pursue our dreams at full speed, we know that we can never return.  We can never recapture the simplicity and innocence of life.  We are exposed to a different dimension.  We doubt if we should ever come back.

Frost’s message is a powerful one.  The two paths can represent a number of things metaphorically.  Perhaps, Frost knew that pursuing the more traveled road would be living someone else’s life.  Not his own.

A path in the woods

He realized that life wouldn’t be as easy.  He knew that there would be new challenges and obstacles along the way.  Frost also knew that his new path would lead to personal glory.  He realized what few ever do: true freedom comes only from living your own path.

The beautiful thing about writing and poetry is that the meaning will change depending on who is reading the words.  Much like art, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  We interpret our current life by using our past experiences.  Frost’s words speak to me in a certain way, how do they speak to you?  


What are your thoughts?

What do you think about the poem?


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  1. Yet another excellent post Andy. Your reflections are well considered. With travel you never quite know which adventures you will come across. By choosing the less well known places can open you up to truly unique and special experiences.

  2. I love this post! It fits exactly where my mind has been in recent months. Choosing just one path. Thank you for the inspiring words.

    • I’m very grateful that I was able to give you something you enjoyed! I appreciate the generous comment! I hope that the path that you choose is one of many new and exciting experiences.

  3. Such a great post on these same feelings I have. I love this part “He also knew that once he exposed himself to the untamed, he’d never be able to return to simplicity.” That is exactly the trouble with travel! It curses us for life…. but in a good way I’d say 🙂

  4. Great post! I like to think about the culture and philosophy of traveling and backpacking myself, and I simply love the poem.
    And I respect that Frost does not make a judgement on either of the ‘paths’ he’s talking about. Everyone has to make up his own mind about which one to take, based on individual preferences and lifestyle. Frost only says that it makes ‘all the difference’. Very sophisticated!

    • Excellent point! You’re right that Frost does not make a judgement although he acknowledges that they are entirely different. It does make “all the difference”. I appreciate your thoughts! Look forward to following your site as well!

  5. Cody Rhodes via Facebook

    One of my favorite poems ever.

  6. Faby Muñoz via Facebook

    Muy motivador… al final, es bueno saber que cada quien elige su destino…

  7. Frank Alfano via Facebook

    This really hits home for me Andy Andersen. Great read!

  8. Nice thoughts, but you misunderstood the poem.

    Read the start and you’ll find that Frost clearly says the paths are the same. The part you are analysing as being ‘inspirational’ is, in fact, what he says he will tell people at a later time: He will tell people that the road he took was different, and that it made a difference, but in reality, it just happened and had no affect on the outcome.

    I don’t think he is saying he will lie about it consciously, but he will mistakenly believe at a later date that taking that path actually made a difference. This is just my view on it.

    The meaning of the poem when you realise this is pretty much the opposite of what you concluded.

    • The interpretation is that there is no right or wrong path. There is the chosen path or the other path.

      Paths being representation of your life decisions. Whichever path you take, will be the chosen path. The other path, you will never know what the outcome would be. We don’t have time machines or alternate universes to look back and compare.

      You should not regret the path you’ve chosen because the other path could have better or worse, but unknown.

    • Dear Someone,

      He definitely does say in the second part of poem that they had both been worn about the same. I still feel though that in some ways he is saying that the two paths are not exactly the same, but the one that he has chosen is the one that was intended for his outcome. It depends how deep someone wants to analyze this philosophically with respect to destiny and ‘it is written’ thoughts.

      I definitely agree though with what you are saying. Yes, the part of his words that I find inspiration in are what he will tell others he did, but in his words is a bit of truth I think. Whether he believes it or not, all of our life choices have consequences and outcomes. Choosing a different path in life will inevitably lead one to another outcome, as “yet knowing as way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back”.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and sharing your opinions.

  9. How does everyone read this and draw the wrong conclusion? His point was it doesn’t matter your choices. He clearly states that the roads are the same. Comprehension people.

    • Hey Walter,

      Thanks for stopping by.

      I don’t think that there are any ‘wrong conclusions’ in art and poetry. That is part of the beauty of them. Although you may not agree with one interpretation, a piece of poetry may speak to people in different ways.

      He does say in the poem that ‘Though as for that the passing there, had worn them really about the same’, but that doesn’t necessarily suggest that he means they are the same paths. As I mentioned in a previous response, all of our life choices lead to different outcomes. If you choose one metaphorical path instead of another, then you will inevitably end up in a different life outcome. Perhaps Frost doesn’t necessarily believe that in this poem, but it can be inspiring for some who are thinking about important life decisions.

  10. Pretty thought-provoking. I think mediocrity and stability breeds complacency. Sometimes I think it takes a little nudge to step out of your current situation and see all of the possibilities that surround you every day.

    • Stability definitely breeds complacency. Time just gets lost and then you forget about what you want to do. Sometimes you just have to take the step. Thanks for stopping by Brad!

  11. Congratulations, you managed to totally misunderstand the poem and then proceed to blow off anyone who said so.

    • Hey Ford,

      It is possible that I misunderstood the poem, but I never said I didn’t above. If I am wrong and totally misunderstood the poem I would have no problem admitting it. People learn through faults, I believe at least. I have read that poem several times, and still come to the similar conclusions.

      If you read the other comments, I mention specifically that I think art and poetry can have dual meanings. We see this all the time. That is why perspective and life experiences can be so powerful in the arts. Can one picture not show two scenes? Can one word not have two meanings? If Frost were alive, perhaps he would tell me that I am wrong and that’s ok, but I haven’t read anything that would lead me to believe otherwise. I am not claiming to be a literary expert in this post either. That’s not what I do, nor is it my background. There are many people, perhaps such as yourself, that know the ways of Robert Frost far better than I. If it helps you, perhaps think of this blog as “Another interpretation of The Road not Taken”.

      Also, I should mention that I never intend to “blow anyone off” as you suggest. If I were doing that, I could have just as easily deleted any comments that go contrary to my opinions. However, I quickly approved them so that readers could see that there are other opinions and perspectives than mine. I always welcome people to comment and share their thoughts. That is how we learn, from others.

      Even though it seems that you didn’t enjoy your visit, I appreciate you stopping by the site and taking the time to comment. I typically prefer constructive criticism, but I appreciate all perspectives.

      I hope you have a good day!

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