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Interpretation of "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost

alexdehaan 1 / -  
Jul 13, 2008   #1
I need a little help and feedback on this essay for my English 110 class. I am supposed to give an interpretation of "The road not taken" by Robert Frost. It needs to be around 1000 words, I'm pretty close at around 800 right now. My problem is that I keep looking at my essay and comparing it to stuff online, and I'm just not happy with the quality of my writing. It seems that all my sentences sound the same, and the whole essay doesn't really seem to flow like most of the stuff I read. Also, it seems like I am kind of repeating the same thing over and over throughout the essay.

If you could, please look it over and let me know what you think the major good and bad parts are about it. Any help is appreciated.

"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost is a poem that is often to simply interpreted by readers. The poem speaks of a common scenario in life. A traveler has come to a crossroads and is forced to make a choice on which "road", or path of life, he wants to choose. Both paths are inspected equally, and the traveler makes a choice and continues down the road. The common interpretation is that the author is happy with his choice. He decides to choose the road less traveled, and for that reason he is able to say "with a sigh" in his old age that he has chose the correct road, and that it has changed his life for the better. The decision he has made has paid off, he is not just a regular joe, he has lived an adventure by choosing the less traveled road. Upon closer reading, it appears the author doesn't know what the best road is, and is merely trying to convince others that the road he chose is best.

This first stanza is generally interpreted as a person coming to an important event in their life, some life changing moment that requires deep thought. From the line "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood" it springs to mind an event of some magnitude. However, the author does not point out that this event is of any great significance. Everyday we are faced with a simple diverging of roads in our lives and we make a choice, whether it is which road to take to work or what to wear. Most of us make the best choice we can and move on. In this poem, the traveler is seemingly unable to make these simple choices and becomes stuck looking at every decision with fear: "And sorry I could not travel both/And be one traveler, long I stood". Things that most people would decide with ease he obsesses over. Unable to make a decision, he stands frozen at the split in the road.

The second stanza reinforces the ideas brought forth in the first stanza. The traveler decides to take one of the roads "because it was grassy and wanted wear". The common interpretation is that this means he chose the road less traveled. After careful inspection into his life changing event, he has come to the conclusion that he wants his life to be different, and so has chosen the road not many have traveled down. If this were the only line in the stanza, it would be easily interpreted this way. The problem with this interpretation are the very next lines: "Those as for that the passing there/Had worn them really about the same". The traveler realizes that upon a second look, the two paths were really not all that different. He was just tricking himself into believing they were different, but apart from minor differences, they were about the same. The reason he is having trouble making the decision is not because it is life changing, it is that he just cannot seem to believe in his choices.

In the third stanza we see that he continues to have doubt in his decision and says "Oh! I kept the first for another day". The irony Frost intended for the reader to see was that he has no way to go back. He has already taken on the road, and "...knowing how way leads on to way,/[he] doubted if [he] should ever come back". He knows that the first path will lead to another path, that will lead to yet another path, and that he has no way to find his way back to that first split in the road. Still, he can't help but think 'what if?'. Not only was he frozen at the beginning of the road, now he is on the road of his choice and he is still preoccupied with "the road not taken". Once again, in the first line of the third stanza, he has admitted again that "... both that morning equally lay", but the situation still doesn't seem quite in his realm of understanding.

The common interpretation of the fourth stanza is that the man in the story is looking into the future and looking back on how happy he is that he took the road less traveled. The first clue to the true meaning of the stanza is the "sigh". Some view this as a sigh of relief, or a sigh of happiness. Frost wants the reader to know that the upcoming lines, the bit about the road less traveled, will be nothing more then an inflated story used by himself as an old man. Just as many others do, he will look back and tell others that he took the road less traveled, and his life is that much better for it. But this will be nothing more then a bogus story, because both roads were almost the same.

EF_Team5 - / 1,586  
Jul 13, 2008   #2
Right off, my advice to you is do not compare your work to texts you find online. It is very difficult to find worthy comparisons for these types of interpretations; either the stuff you find is of a very low quality or it is of a very high quality. Either way, it's probably not where you should be, academically speaking. So, don't do this. :)

You have a good explanatory introduction; you skim over the top of what the gist of the poem is about and your vague interpretation. This is good; your reader is given the highlights of what you are going to write about, and can decide whether or not they want to continue to read on.

Your second paragraph has a pretty good basis of analysis. Do you have any personal experiences with decisions such as this, or with not being able to make an informed or confident decision? If so, this would be a good time to use one as an example of your interpretation.

Your third paragraph needs more analysis. What would motivate an individual to take a path where others had not already tested it out and valued its merits? What would lead an individual to be unsure of his or her decision making abilities?

In your fourth paragraph, you speak of regret and the impossibility of redemption. How can these concepts be dealt with? Is it just human nature to think that "the grass is greener on the other side"? Is there any way to quell that curiosity?

Instead of telling your readers about the "common interpretation" of this poem, what is your understanding of it? How do you view the old man's sigh? If the roads were the same, is it possible that he is just an old man that paused to sigh in his story telling to another? Can this sigh be cautionary sigh to warn the listener/reader? Your line, "...an inflated story used by himself as an old man" is very interesting to me. Why is the sigh inflated? Expound upon this.

I hope my suggestions and questions can help you further. When you are ready to proofread and edit, feel free to post again and I can assist you.

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