‘The Road Not Taken’, using allegory as a technique to convey a message of an inner and emotional journey. These journeys are concealed by a physical journey which Frost writes of; one of choosing between two roads in the woods during autumn. Robert Frost explores the difficulty involved in choosing between two ‘roads’ – one of which he must take in order to continue on the journey of life. In ‘The Road Not Taken’, he also discusses his emotions after he had chosen and set out on a path, which ultimately leads to him proclaiming that he has no regrets.
Frost successfully conveys all this through the use of vivid imagery, metaphors, and a build-up of the personae judging on his use of language as well as capturing the mental processes of the character. The physical journey acts as an allegory in ‘The Road Not Taken’. This journey is one of a man literally coming to two roads diverging in the woods. We can tell it is autumn by the description of the woods being ‘yellow’, and the persona expresses his regret over not being able to travel both paths.
As one traveller, he stood for as long as he could, and peered down one as far as possible, hoping the get a glimpse of what that road held for him. Eventually, he chooses one, as it seems to have been less travelled on, and he isn’t satisfied following the normal route. He tells himself that he’ll come back and take the other one another day, yet deep inside he knows that it is unlikely he will have the opportunity to do so. The speaker admits that in the far future, when he thinks back to this choice he had to make, he would know that choosing the road less people took had made a difference.
The physical journey of this poem holds many uses of imagery, such as ‘to where it bent in the undergrowth’ and ‘in leaves no steps had trodden black’, which creates a vivid image for the audience. The persona adapts a voice of a calm, rational, collected, and very concise man through his use of sophisticated language, producing a credible character that the audience can respect. However, whilst the physical journey is the most obvious one, a deeper look into Frost’s poem unleashes a new front and a new view on the overall meaning of ‘The Road Not Taken’.
Robert Frost is essentially saying “journeys can sometimes lead us to crossroads; and it is at that moment that the choice you make may impact the rest of your life. ” The use of the road ‘yellow’ in the first line symbolizes autumn, the season of change. Frost is potentially foretelling us that this is a poem of change, which could lead on to a journey. The choice of the word ‘sorry’ in line two indicates to us the sorrow and regret he feels for not being able to go on both these journeys. ‘And be one traveller, long I stood’ – this line shows us the time and care he took in choosing his path.
He pondered his options for a long time before deciding. The use of the word ‘long’ after the comma makes the word stand out. It captures how hard the decision was to make. In fact, it was so difficult that the individual ‘looked down’ both as far as he could – or in other words, tried to imagine what the outcome would be if he took that road. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out so well, as the future was ‘bent’ in the undergrowth compounded of future possibilities. Here, Robert Frost explores the idea that at times, journeys may be confusing and unpredictable.
As much as we want to know the outcomes our choices will bring, there are so many different possibilities – as symbolised by the undergrowth – that we couldn’t possibly be able to predict the future. The second stanza begins with ‘Then took the other, as just as fair,’ implying that he takes the second road, and decides to take that one as it was just as fair, or just as good as the first road. The character then justifies his choice by acknowledging that the second road had a better claim, as it was grassy and wanted wear.
Here, the grass on the road symbolizes that not many people had been on this path before, and in ‘wanting wear’, Frost personifies the road into someone who wants the character to take on the challenge of something different. This line also shows us that the persona is not satisfied to just blindly drift along and follow the normal route. The persona has a higher demand. He thinks very deeply on it, and values independence and originality. This stanza sparks the idea that perhaps sometimes, journeys aren’t meant to be safe and sound, but risky.
Perhaps it is the difference one road offers that separate an individual from the rest of society. But on that morning, the paths were equal; no one had journeyed on them yet, for the leaves were fresh of any decay. The symbolism in these lines are strong. It’s a new day. Even though thousands and thousands have journeyed along these paths before you, the choice is new to you. Even though millions of people have encountered the same crossroad, have had to make the same decision, it is a different and fresh experience for you. Oh, I kept the first for another day’ indicates that he wants to save the other road for another day; to try the other option at another time in the future. But Robert Frost soon rules that out, because ‘knowing how way leads on to way’, meaning how one path, or one choice, leads to another one, and another one, and another one; he doubted if he should ever come back. This is the turning point of this poem. It is the point in the persona’s journey when he accepts the fact that after making this choice, he isn’t going to be able to come back and try the other option. The last stanza concludes the persona’s emotional and inner journeys.
The use of the word ‘sigh’ in the first line of this stanza tells the audience that when’s he’s much, much older – as hinted by the repetition of the word ‘ages’- he’ll reminisce about the decision he’s making with satisfaction, or perhaps regret. However, it is the last three lines that show us he won’t regret his decision. “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference. ’ The repetition of the word ‘I’ and the dash to emphasis the pause makes this line very powerful. Highlighting ‘I’ makes it clear that the decision was his, and his alone.
He was not influenced by society; he is controlling his own life, making his own choices. ‘And that has made all the difference’ gives the audience a feel of satisfaction. He made a decision based on his own conscience and beliefs, and that has made all the difference. Robert Frost explores many ideas and feelings about journeys in ‘The Road Not Taken’, one of the most prominent being that the journey of life will definitely lead you to crossroads at times, and whilst it feels like you’re the first to ever have to face these choices, millions have been there before you.
At times, these choices may be easy, but sometimes, they may be difficult. Frost encourages the audience to follow their conscience and beliefs, for it will lead to a life with no regrets, and that each road will take us to a new place with new opportunities. Frost does this by incorporating the use of imagery, personification, and symbolism into his allegory. By doing so, he also relates the difficulty of this choice to the audience. ‘The Road Not Taken’ communicates to the audience a new idea of how different roads on a journey can lead to different paths – and to take the one you know you won’t regret.