The Paths we Travel

An interesting post from blogger Tess Thompson of St. Louis: In her blog, Arch Words, Tess discusses what she deems “one of the most misunderstood poems in the United States,” The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. As you can see, the last lines of that poem are among my favorite quotes and ones which I have always felt describe my take on life. However, as Tess points out, those lines may not really be what they seem. I’ll leave it to you to read the entire analysis as Tess sees it, but here is the poem followed by my thoughts:

The Road Not Taken

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.

In a nutshell, the argument is that Frost’s poem is not about one road being a better choice. If you read carefully you will see that the roads look much the same although the narrator knows that each has its own branches and destinations. Choosing is therefore an important issue, but the superiority of one path over the other is not at all clear. From this perspective, I can envision the future old man telling his grandchildren or companions (“with a sigh”) that he had made the better choice, taking the road “less traveled by.” Perhaps the sigh implies he still wonders how his life might have been different by choosing the other road, but in typical “grandpa-ish” tradition, he spins his tale of independence and bravado, bucking the mainstream to follow the less popular route.

Everytime I come to my blog I wonder: If this interpretation is true, does the poem retain its meaning to me? I take pride in choosing the road less traveled — if it is equally traveled does that diminish my pride or my choice? I don’t think so. I chose the road I chose and, as Robert Frost maintains, “that has made all the difference.”

One thought on “The Paths we Travel

  1. Okay. Sometime I\’ll read her review. For now I think I\’ll just mull this over.I\’ve loved Frost, or at least those favorite ones we know, since my childhood when he was our national poet.And may I say, that I argued in college and still maintain, that Stopping By the Woods On A Snowy Night is about stopping by the woods on a snowy night.And I\’ll continue to work on those two paths – though I concede that we may only take one path and I\’ll still remember that paths sometimes reunite further along the way.


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