Among all the works of Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken’ is probably the most widely known poem. It was first published in his collection “Mountain Interval”.
Seemingly easy but this poem is also the most misread poem of Frost. Frost warned about this poem that “you have to be careful of that one. It is a tricky poem – very tricky.”
There are 20 lines in this poem which are divided into 4 stanzas. Frost wrote in the range of Blank Verse as immaculately as in proper rhyming scheme. This poem is written in a strict rhyme scheme of ABAAB and the meter is iambic tetrameter.
The poem begins candidly in a dilemma of two roads diverging in a yellow wood. In the very second line, the poet is already sure that he can’t travel both so the choice must be made.
Here the choice Is arbitrary but the point is whether the results of our choices are clearer only in hindsight? The poem was written to mock an indecisive friend with whom Frost used to go out for walks.
The realistic description of two roads and the wood is simple but the meaning extends beyond it. The poet imagines his life’s proceeding as his own doppelganger. Doppelganger is a body double of someone who haunts that person. For a moment, the poet contemplates this dilemma.
The poem proceeds into the difference between the two roads because they look so identical. Their description is really about the same. But the complexity comes from the fact that it is thought in retrospection when one gets to know that in life, even when paths look the same, they lead to different destinations.
When the poet is standing in front of that diversion, for him both roads are equally untravelled. Yvor Winter characterizes Frost as a spiritual drifter.
It is shown in this poem perfectly because he doesn’t offer any perspective but simply describes the randomness of the choices made in life.
Frost’s role as a drifter is that of a poet. Ince the poet decides which path to follow, he says that Oh, I kept the first for another day but with a doubt whether he will ever come back.
This shows the habit of regret which some people have regarding everything they do which they question later that how else it could have been.
The poet anticipates in the end that someday he will be telling about this choice of the road somewhere after a long time perhaps as a fairy tale because in the last stanza the language becomes fairy-tale like.
It describes the way we give meaning to everything we do even if done in an arbitrary fashion. The meaning inherent in the last lines is boundless.
The division of choices will always be there in life. We can only look back later and wonder which choice of us resulted in what.