THE ROAD NOT TAKEN – Summary: Question/ Answers : Literary Devices



About the poet:

Robert Frost was born on March 26th, 1873 in San Francisco and died in January 29, 1963.  Frost mostly wrote about the life and landscape of New England. He avoided the poetic experiments of his time and was a poet of traditional verse forms and meter.  Frost, one of the best-known and most beloved American poets of the 20th century, won the Pulitzer Prize four times for New Hampshire (1924), Collected Poems (1931), A Further Range (1937), and A Witness Tree (1943).

             The Road Not Taken

                               Robert Frost

    Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

    And sorry I could not travel both

    And be one traveler, long I stood

    And looked down one as far as I could

    To where it bent in the undergrowth;

    Then took the other, as just as fair,

    And having perhaps the better claim,

    Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

    Though as for that the passing there

    Had worn them really about the same,

   And both that morning equally lay

   In leaves no step had trodden black.

   Oh, I kept the first for another day!

   Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

   I doubted if I should ever come back.

   I shall be telling this with a sigh

   Somewhere ages and ages hence:

   Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

   I took the one less traveled by,

   And that has made all the difference.

Summary of ‘ The Road Not Taken’

The poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ is about the choices that one makes in the journey of life. The road is the metaphor of that journey and the diversions in the road stand for the different choices that one comes across as one travels through life.

In the poem the poet describes his experience of a walk through the woods one autumn morning. As he walked through the wood he came across a diversion or a fork on the road. He wanted to make the correct choice and therefore found himself in a dilemma about choosing the right one. He wanted to travel through both the roads and felt sorry that he was unable to do so. Therefore, he looked as far as possible till the road curved among the bushes and was no longer visible.

After much contemplation he took the other road which looked just as good as the other. He thought that it had a greater claim for travelers as it was grassy and wanted people to travel through it. It wanted people to wear down the grassy road through use. Though, afterwards he felt that both the roads were walked on almost the same by travelers.

 It was early in the morning, and the fallen leaves were still fresh not having been stepped upon and turned black with the impact.  Therefore, the poet decided to keep the first well-travelled road for a later time and took the somewhat less frequented one. Though, in his sub- conscious mind he knew that it was a futile thought, as one way leads to the other and it was extremely doubtful that he would get the chance to travel the other road.

He then predicts that sometime in the distant future he would tell others with a sigh, that at some point in his life he had to make a choice between two options. He chose to take the less travelled road which made a difference in his life and decided his future.

Literary devices in ‘The Road Not Taken’

  1. Metaphor –  the road is the metaphor for journey of life
  2. Metaphor – the divergent paths are metaphors for choices in life.
  3. Symbolism – The roads symbolize the choices in our life.
  4. Anaphora – Repetition of ‘ and ‘ in lines 2, 3, 4
  5. Alliteration – ‘wanted wear’, ‘first for’, ‘then took’, ‘that the’
  6. Repetition – ‘ Ages and ages’ , ‘ and I / I took …’
  7. Repetition – ‘Two roads diverged in a’ (repeated I stanza 1 and 4)

Questions and answers:

1. Where does the traveller find himself?  What problem does he face?

Ans..The traveller finds himself in a wood during the autumn season. He comes to a point where the road diverges into two separate paths.

The road is the metaphor for the journey of life, and the fork in the road stands for choices in life’s journey.  The problem of the traveller is that he is facing a dilemma and is unable to decide which road or choice to take.

 2. Discuss what these phrases mean to you.
(i) a yellow wood

The yellow wood is the wood during autumn. The leaves have turned yellow and are about to fall. The autumn season is symbolic of the matured age of a man’s life.

(ii) it was grassy and wanted wear

The road was less travelled and was filled with grass. Here, the road is personified as it seems to want people to travel on that road, so that it could also become worn out like the other one.

(iii) the passing there

The passing there refers to the road on which people had trodden on the grass. To the traveller both the roads that morning seemed to be used almost the same. Here, the poet is using contrast and antithesis to express his repentance of having to make a choice as both options seemed to be equal.

(iv) leaves no step had trodden black

The traveller was travelling in the morning. So he finds that the freshly fallen leaves had not been walked over by anyone and hence they had not turned black and looked equally attractive and fresh. The roads symbolise equal opportunities.

(v) how way leads on to way

Although the traveller wanted to explore both the roads, he decided to take the less frequented one and keep the other one for future.  He also realizes that it was a futile thought as one way would lead to another and he would not be able to come back to explore the other road. Symbolically it means that the choices we make in life are permanent.

3. Is there any difference between the two roads as the poet describes them
(i) in stanzas two and three?

There wasn’t much difference between the two roads. Initially the traveller thought that he had chosen the less travelled grassy road, but after travelling for some time he realised that both roads were about the same. That is, he faced similar challenges in the path that he had chosen.

(ii) in the last two lines of the poem?

In the last two lines the travelled expresses his satisfaction in choosing the less travelled road. It was the correct choice which made a difference in his life. Though he sighs for lost opportunities, he is satisfied about the outcome of his choice.

Extra questions of ‘The Road Not Taken’

1. Discuss the appropriateness of the title ‘The Road Not Taken ‘.

Ans. The poet has chosen a negative sentence to convey to his readers that it was his wise decision not to make the common choice which made the difference in his life. The title thus appropriately brings out the wisdom of the poet’s decision to take the less travelled path.

2. What is the theme of ‘The Road Not Taken ‘?

Ans. The theme of ‘The Road Not Taken ‘ is the importance of making correct choices in life which decides our future.  It also points out the permanence of the choices that we take in our lives.

3. What is the message of ‘The Road Not Taken ‘?

Ans. The poem gives the message to its readers that it is important to take correct decisions at the correct time for living a life of satisfaction and success.

4. What is the rhyme scheme of the poem?

Ans. The rhyme scheme of the poem is abaab. The poem is written in four stanzas of five line each called quintain or quintet.