The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
This poem is about actual and figurative roads: the roads we walk and drive on, and the roads we take through life. As the speaker of this poem discusses, for every road we take, there's a road we don't take. Wrong turn or not, the roads we take can end up making significant changes in our lives. And we'll always wonder about the roads that we didn't try.
- Line 1: This line sets the scene for the literal and metaphorical fork in the road that the speaker faces. The road splitting in the woods is a metaphor for a choice. Wherever the speaker's life has taken him so far, he has come to the point where, to go any farther, he needs to make a choice that takes him down one path and precludes him from taking the other. Because the fork in the road is a metaphor for choices throughout the poem, it's called an extended metaphor.
- Lines 4-5: This description of the road is a metaphor for the future. Just like we can only see a path in the woods for so far, we can only see the consequences of our decisions for a short while into our future.
- Line 6: Here, the speaker decides that, even though he's spent a long time looking down one road, he's going to take the other, which seems just as interesting. This is probably a metaphor for a sudden decision – when we think about doing one thing, like, say, staying with a boyfriend or girlfriend, for a long time. But then, all of a sudden, we find ourselves doing something else – dumping the boy or girl, and setting out on a new path. We don't know why we did it, other than that we thought we'd be just as happy with one choice as the other.
- Lines 13-15: The speaker wants to be able to take both roads, but realizes that the nature of these roads is such that he probably will never be able to come back to this place. This is a metaphor for a decision that changes everything – once you've made it you can never go back.
- Lines 18-20: The repetition of the first line brings us back to the beginning of the extended metaphor, and then the last two lines conclude the metaphor. In line 19, one of the roads is being affirmed as less traveled, even though the narrator seemed unsure before. And then we get the famous line "and that has made all the difference," which solidifies the figurative level of this poem by saying that taking the road that the speaker took, making the choice that he made, has changed his life.