Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Identifying Dimensions of the Road

As I build my thesis from a combination of my evaluation and the cause/effect claims, along with the comments from scholarly friends, I will explore the effects of the contradictions and ambiguity in Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken” for my final paper.

 What was Frost intending for us to feel as we read how a certain conflicted traveler chooses one equally worn road over another and then contradicts himself by stating one road seems better suited, “because it was grassy and wanted wear.”  This leaves the reader to wonder what could have enticed the traveler to choose one road over the other.   Was it just a hunch or whim he has or is there some visible reason such as the intriguing way the sunlight filters through the underbrush that prompted his decision?  We do not know, because Frost doesn’t tell us.  He does tell us he kept the first road for another day, only to say the traveler doubts he will ever again find himself at that particular cross road.

And why is he telling this way off in the future. . .and with a sigh?  Does this mean he is feeling regret for not having taken the first road or is it regret that because he is just one traveler he is unable to travel both roads simultaneously?  We do not know the answer to this because again, Frost does not tell us, or does he?  What he does tell us is that the road he took has made “all the difference.”  The ambiguity intensifies here as we wonder what that difference might be.  Each reader is left to speculate and fill in the blank to resolve the meaning of the poem.  Which is the reason the poem has such wide appeal.


  1. You ask great questions in this post! I find that I am often able to figure out what I want to talk about in a paper by finding out what I don't know through questions. That's how you know what really interests you because you obviously want to find an answer!

    1. Especially with this poem. It has been thought of by so many in a certain way that it begs to be looked at from a different perspective.

  2. Your post inspired me to go back and read that poem. It made me feel sad that we simply can't capture all the beauty and sweet experience before us. If only there were some way to travel both roads, or at least predict which will make the better difference. For me, the ambiguities you mentioned contrast what is with what one wishes to be.

  3. I am interested in your answer to Jocelyn above when you say that the poem "begs to be looked at from a different perspective." It seems to me that most people interpret the poem in a very positive way: the road less traveled is automatically assumed to be the more difficult and therefore brings more of a reward for having traveled it. It's along the line of "whatever doesn't kill you will make you stronger." But I see no reason to make this interpretation regardless of how comforting it may be. The author only hints that the road taken may have been more difficult by saying it had a "better claim" and was less traveled. But there may be many reasons the road was less traveled. It could have been because other travelers knew it was less traveled because it was a bad road, because there were robbers along the way, because the bridge was washed out, or because evil and temptation existed all along the way that had overpowered and subsumed all previous travelers. It is just as valid to assume that by taking this road the traveler life had turned out for ill and that he regretted ever having taken it. He could have been speaking from the perspective of a ruined life and that's why the road had made all the difference. How's that for a different perspective?