July 5, 2003 POEM ANALYSIS: On "The Road Not Taken" American poet, Robert Frost, published On "The Road Not Taken," in 1915. This is the poem I have chosen to analyze for this class, written when the poet was approximately 40 years old. Frost was influenced by the way of the times. Historically, world unrest was prevalent in 1915. For the first time ever, many countries around the world were at war. World War I has just begun, fueled when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia.
In the U. S. , civil rights for blacks continued to grow. During that year, 10, 000 blacks march in New York City protesting lynching. The industrial revolution was growing by leaps and bounds; the Ford Motor Company manufactures its one millionth T automobile. And, Alexander Graham Bell in New York calls Thomas Watson in San Francisco in 1915.
Frost, in this lyrical poem introduces the central theme, the dilemma man faces when forced to make a difficult choice and the related consequences of the action. Symbolically, man's choices are reflected in the poem's reference to a fork in the road. In addition, it raises the question of whether it is better to choose a road in which many travel, or to choose the road less traveled and explore on your own. In "The Road Not Taken," the speakers' tone and setting help illustrate the struggle a person goes through in their lives to pick the right road to travel. Frost, when he wrote his poem, appears to struggle with a major decision. While the world was uneasy, it sounds as if his personal world was also in unrest.
In addition, Frost, at about 40 years old was approaching his mid-life - a time for many, especially men, to contemplate life, decision, choices made and the future. It is told in first person, a narrative story, which characterizes a moment in the speaker's life - of which I assume is Frost's life. The free verse poem has four stanzas, each containing five sentences. The rhythm's sound reinforces the twists and turns it is trying to convey in its words.
The rhythm sounds like this: a/, b/, a, c/, b, d/, e/, d, f/, e, g/, h/, g, i/, h, j/, k/, j, l/, k. It is one's past, present and the attitude with which one looks upon their future that determines how the poem will be interpreted. In any case however, this poem clearly demonstrates Frost's belief that the road that one chooses, makes them the person who they are. In the first stanza, the narrator identifies a road that breaks into two roads. The metaphor is of a person contemplating life - "long I stood." He goes on to describe regret due to the limits as a human.
He reviews and examines the road thoroughly, but what he sees is limited because the road is covered over with growth and it curves. Because of the area he is in, the narrator would like to gain more information, but can't. In the second stanza, the narrator seems to feel that the second road is a better choice because no one has taken it recently. He continues, as he also describes the road as "just as fair." Frost breaks the stanza after line 10, but the central idea continues into the third stanza.
This links these parts of the poem. The narrator says that the roads are "really about the same." None of the roads have been traveled recently - he is struggling to find a good reason on why one road is better than the other. In the third stanza, the narrator makes his choice. He tries to convince himself that he will travel both roads, but at the same time, reaching the conclusion that idea may not be realist. Interestingly, the poet uses an exclamation mark after line 13; generally the use of that mark means excitement.
But, that excitement fades in the lines following. In the last stanza, the tone shifts. The narrator thinks about himself in the future, talking about his life. At the end of the poem, he believes that the roads were different from one another and that he was smart by not choosing the road everyone else took.
Maybe he will actually believe this in the future. Or, maybe he hopes that he could choose "the one less traveled by." This poem gives the reader a situation that each one of us has to face at least one time in their lives. That situation being that everyone has to struggle to try and put his or her life on the right road. The road that leads them to what they believe to be happiness, for many, a Christ-centered life. The narrator here makes a decision in his life that had changed the direction of his life from what it may have otherwise been. I think it is because of that, the poem allows readers from all different experiences to relate to the poem.
Sources cited: Pritchard, William. On "The Road Not Taken." Modern American Poetry. July 2, 2003. web > Exploring Poetry, Gale, 1997.
July 2, 2003. web.