Frost: The Road Not Taken


Frost: The Road Not Taken
by msabaye

If I had a dime for every time I heard "The Road not Taken" by Frost recited as an inspirational, motivational poem, I would be very rich indeed. Years ago, someone wrote it for me inside the cover of a book she gave me as a gift. I thought about it for a long time, first happy and flattered, then wondering what she meant.

The poem is simple, easy to read, and beautiful, but I think this is a pessimistic, sad poem not a positive, uplifting one. The reason is his emphasis on both roads worn about the same, implying nothing distinct about one or the other, or lack of choice. How do you benefit in any way from choosing between two things that are basically the same? The other clue for me is the sigh at the end of the poem, if the choice is a glorious one, why saying "it has made all the difference" with a sigh? Unless, it hasn't made any difference as there was no choice to begin with.

I wonder whether the person who wrote the poem for me knew what it meant or whether that was what she meant. I guess I shall be saying this with a sigh, ages and ages hence, that her intention has made all the difference!

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The poem is taken from The Northern Anthology of American Literature, seventh edition, vol. D, 2007, p. 1399-1400.


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I think it positive

by Abnabot on

I think this poem is brave and uplifting. He says that the road he took was grassy and wanted wear. I believe he counts similarities between the two and only one difference: that the second road was never used. Everytime I read this poem, I really feel energized and ready to confront obstacles, and to me that is the purpose of the poem. The "sigh", as the other commentator noted, is the sigh of relief that the narrator chose (may be unintentionally) the new path. Great poem! Thanks for opening it for a discussion.

Multiple Personality Disorder

Interesting personification of the personification poem

by Multiple Personality Disorder on

“Sigh can indicate relief or happiness, or it can indicate regret or sorrow. The interpretation of its meaning is up to the reader.”



“… the two paths in the wood are pretty much the same:

‘… the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.’

There is virtually nothing to choose between these two paths.  The poet's choice is all but random, and that is really the point of the poem.  The important choices we make in life, the ones that seem to make ‘all the difference’ are often random in nature.  Later on in life (the poet knows), he will swear (‘with a sigh’) to anyone who will listen, that he was the brave one, a pioneer, that he took the path ‘less traveled by.’  But the evidence of the poem is far less brave, far more random — and probably far more true about how our life paths are determined.”