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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Road Not Taken - A Misunderstood Poem

This classic poem by Robert Frost is grossly misrepresented by English teachers and misinterpreted by students.
Was the road taken really “the one less traveled by?” No. And, that’s not even the point of the poem.
This poem isn’t an ode to being a rebel as I (and probably others) have long believed. It’s a simple reflection on the timeless impact of seemingly minor decisions.
Frost says he took the road less traveled by, but it surely doesn’t sound like he did. In stanza 2, Mr. Frost says he “took the other (road) as just as fair, And having perhaps the better claim [b]ecause it was grassy and wanted wear. . . “ But, then he says the passing there had worn both roads “really about the same.” And, in stanza 3 he goes on to say that “both (roads) that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black.” The roads were identical but for one perhaps having a bit more grass on it.
Frost didn't take the high road or blaze his own trail. He simply had to choose between two very similar courses of action and his decision is what “made all the difference.” We all face seemingly insignificant decisions every day which alter the course of our lives from that point onward. For a time, we can save the alternate path for another day, but eventually, as Frost points out, way leads on to way and we leave those forks behind us forever.
Frost should have rewritten the penultimate line of the poem. It's misleading. Frost is not encouraging the reader to “take the road less traveled.” He doesn't even make a good case that he took the road less traveled. Frost is simply saying, “Every decision you make in life will alter your course forever.” The subtext being, “So choose wisely.”