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Robert Frost Talks About The Dilemma Of Choice Philosophy Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost is one of his most famous, inspirational and well-analyzed poems. It is autobiographical in nature and talks about making choices in life – choices that can affect one’s entire future. It seems to encourage unconventional thinking, bold decisions to tread a path not many people have taken. To experiment with new ideas and new thoughts and explore the real world like it has not been done before. It seems to preach self-reliance and not just following where others have led. It does not moralize about choice, simply portrays that choice is inevitable. But it also illustrates how one never knows what the choice will mean until one has actually lived it.

In this poem, Robert Frost talks about the dilemma he faces when he’s taking an important decision of his life. He can either go the usual, conventional way or follow the path not many may have used or think is acceptable.

While largely it may be interpreted as inspiring, there are multiple ways of ascribing what he says.

In the beginning we are introduced to the two roads as diverging options- “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” The poet while understands that he can only take one of the two roads, is regretful that he cannot explore both “And sorry I could not travel both”. He is alone and hence must make a choice – a choice that could define his future. Thereafter he says that he “looked down one as far as I could”. This is his attempt to see as far as he could to help him make the decision. But surely there is only so much one can predict and thereafter one needs to decide if he is a follower or a leader. (“and looked down one….bent in undergrowth”).

He then decides to take the other road for ‘it looks grassy and wants wear, symbolizing how the path he wishes to take is not only the one that fewer people take (hence grassy) but also one that should be given a chance. It is clear that fewer people have walked that road and hence appears more difficult than the path many people have taken.

Following this however, he speaks of how both the roads are in fact, similar (“worn them really about the same”, “both that morning equally lay”). This shows the difficulty of making the choice as at that stage all one can go by is that fewer people have walked a path than the other, but there is no way to tell which might be a better option as you cannot really see much further.

He then continues by saying that while he is desirous of returning and taking the other road someday and seeing where it takes him, he knows that, life being what it is, he shall almost certainly not get that chance -“I kept the first for another day!” One knows that one does not get many chances in life, that your decisions take you along one way and it is so difficult to return or follow another path later. But such is life that one has to choose and live with the choice forever.

The poet then finishes with saying that he took the road less travelled i.e the path that fewer people take and that made a great deal of difference in life – “I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.”. This clearly reflects the success he achieves in life, choosing not to walk the trodden path and looking for newer pastures, ideas and thoughts. It demonstrates the power of taking your chances and choosing boldly to live a more meaningful and successful life. While the risks may be greater but so will be the rewards.

Thus one can interpret the poem as an inspiring one that speaks of being an individual and taking a radical approach to life. It also emphasizes on the choice that one makes and not the path itself as being of paramount importance.

However, the poem is open to another inference. The poet may be employing irony to show how people often delude themselves into believing that their choices matter when in reality they do not. There is only so much one can look in the future and thereafter the choice is a matter for gut and instinct. Where one reaches after making the choice depends on many other factors and what lies on the way. This is indicated by the poet’s sigh in the last stanza, as well as his admitting that the two roads may not be so different after all (stanzas two and three) and so the ending lines are ironical. Which interpretation one wishes to follow is one’s own CHOICE.

The title “THE ROAD NOT TAKEN” is very open ended .It creates suspense as to what or how our lives would have been had we taken the other path. It speaks not only about what one chooses to do but also what one could have chosen to do. The poem’s theme is evergreen making it one of the most quotable poems in history. It is apt and relevant for all age groups, be it a child, a teenager or an adult. Personally after reading I feel, life is all about making choices, taking the right decisions at the right time. One cannot escape the various dilemmas life throws at us. We all have to make choices, small or big to move ahead in life. It is these decisions, these choices that shape our life. The impacts of these can be seen in our career, social and love lives.


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