Study Guide

The Road Not Taken Themes

  • Choices

    "The Road Not Taken" centers on the concept of choice. The path that the speaker is walking on is splitting in two directions, and he has to decide which way to go. This path is not just in the woods, but also represents a decision in his life. Something in his life is changing, forcing him to make a choice. Yet he has a really hard time deciding – one moment, he thinks one way is better, the next, both paths are about the same. Whether or not he has a reason why the choice he makes is better, he has to make it. And that choice changes his life.

    Questions About Choices

    1. What do you think the fork in the road could represent in the speaker's life?
    2. Do you think the speaker is happy with his choice or not? Why?
    3. Which road do you think you would have taken if you were the speaker? Why?
    4. What do you think the differences between the two roads in this poem are, if any?

    Chew on This

    Despite what the speaker's memory tells him later, the roads in this poem are equally traveled, making the speaker's choice more difficult.

    The speaker is purposefully ambiguous about whether or not he's happy with his choice.

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    Choices, like the choice "The Road Not Taken," are linked to the future. The speaker of this poem realizes that his choice of path will change his life. But the tricky part about the nature of the future is that the speaker won't know how his decision will change his life until it has already changed it. The speaker thinks of his lost opportunities as his choice takes him into one future and leaves another behind.

    Questions About Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    1. What does the title of the poem suggest about how the speaker feels about his decision?
    2. How old do you think the speaker in this poem is? Does that affect his perspective on the future?
    3. What does the speaker think his future will be like now that he's made this choice?
    4. How sure do you think the speaker is that he will never come back to try the other road?

    Chew on This

    The speaker of this poem will only know whether or not he made the right decision a long time in the future.

    The speaker of this poem is not unhappy with his choice, but will always wonder where the other path, the road not taken, would have led him.

  • Man and the Natural World

    Throughout "The Road Not Taken," nature is used as a metaphor for the life of the speaker. The speaker contextualizes a major decision by writing about it as if it were something he encountered while walking in a forest in the fall. This metaphor helps us wrap our minds around the complexities of a choice that will decide his future.

    Questions About Man and the Natural World

    1. Why do you think this poem takes place in autumn?
    2. What do you think the roads in this poem look like?
    3. What is the effect of this poem taking place in a forest?
    4. If you had to create a metaphor about one of your major life decisions, where would your setting be?

    Chew on This

    The speaker would prefer to take a path that would keep him closer to nature, and farther away from other people.

  • Exploration

    Our speaker is out in the woods without a map, and he doesn't know which path to take. But instead of turning tail and running back to where he came from, he chooses a path and forges on, willing to face whatever challenges that path may lead him to. He is attracted to a path that might be less traveled, which suggests that he likes to go where few people have gone before. "The Road Not Taken" embraces exploration, suggesting that the only way to see what's beyond the bend in the road is to keep walking.

    Questions About Exploration

    1. Is the road the speaker takes actually less traveled? Why or why not?
    2. Why do you think the speaker chooses the path that he does?
    3. If the speaker could disregard the constraints of reality, what do you think he would have done?
    4. Why does the speaker place so much emphasis on taking the road less traveled?

    Chew on This

    Even if both roads seem worn about the same, the speaker tries to take the one less traveled.

    The speaker chooses to take the path that he does because it's different from what he originally planned on doing.