The Road Not Taken and Other Poems by Robert Frost
“The Road Not Taken” and Other Poems by Robert Frost “Robert Frost, born March 26, 1874” (Robert Frost), is considered by most to be “one of America is leading 20th century poets” (Frost 15). Some of his most famous work includes The Road Not Taken, Design, and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. “Frost won an unprecedented number of literary, academic, and public honors” (http://encarta.msn.com) because he allows all readers from all different experiences to relate to his poems. “Frost's poetry is based mainly upon the life and scenery of rural New England,” (Frost 15) and the language of his verse reflects the compact idiom of that region. Although he concentrates on ordinary subject matter, Frost's emotional range is wide and deep and his poems often shift dramatically from a tone of humorous banter to the passionate expression of tragic experience. He uses vivid imagery, calm words, and rhythm that sets a tranquil mood for every reader. He used every aspect of the poem to play on the senses, so that all readers could relate. Through his use of creating vivid images, different moods, and all aspects of each poem to relate to every reader in a different way every time, that is why I have chose to analyse Robert Frost. Regardless of the original message that Robert Frost had intended to convey, his poem, The Road Not Taken, has left its readers with many different interpretations. The poem is most commonly interpreted as an advertisement of individuality, but that definition is dependent on whether or not there is a road not taken in Frost's poem. Many scholars believe that Frost was too ambivalent in his descriptions of the difference between the two roads, and have therefore challenged the existence of a less traveled road. The subtraction of a less traveled road from The Road Not Taken produces an equation with an infinite number of interpretations for answers. The interpretations, however, seem
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to be as diverse and original as the explicators themselves. Patrick Bassett, contributor to the literary journal The Explicator, believes in the “spiritual nature of the poem” (Bassett 42) and contends, “it represents spiritual choices of the soul” (Bassett). Mike Bellah, writer for the online magazine, The Best Years, believes that The Road Not Taken is Robert Frosts “warning against procrastination and the delayment of dreams”(Bellah). Central State University Professor, R.F Fleissner argues that “there is no definite interpretation of the poem as it was based on the mannerisms of one man”(Fleissner 22) -a friend of Robert Frost's. Literary critic, Mordecai Marcus, believes that the poem simply “takes a satirical look at the quandary of having to make choices at all”(Marcus). The editors of Thinkquest.org, an online study group, focus on the reflective lines of the poem, and argue that “it urges readers, not to forge new roads, but to take pride in the ones they have already chosen” (Interpretation Of The Road Not Taken) . Louis Untermeyer, writer of The Road Not Taken, proposes, “that "The Road Not Taken" cannot truly be about choice because destiny will always guide one to the necessary path” (Untermeyer). In any case, however, this poem clearly demonstrates Frost's belief that it is the road one chooses that makes him who he is. Frost begins The Road Not Taken by creating a mental image of a traveler stopped at a fork in his path, much like someone who is trying to make a difficult decision. The road that will be chosen leads to the unknown, as does any choice in life. In an attempt to make a decision, the traveler looks down one as far as I could. As much he may strain his eyes to see as far the road stretches, eventually it surpasses his vision and he can never see where it is going to lead. Frost realizes that much like anyone making any kind of decision, their destiny cannot be seen, only the choices they can make. When the traveler finally decides, the line “Then took the other, just as fair / And having perhaps the better claim / What made it have the better claim is that it was grassy and wanted wear,” possibly describes Frost’s desire to not necessarily follow the crowd. This may be because of a feeling of unhappiness that was experienced by following everyone, instead of making decisions for himself. He wants to do more of what has never been done, what is new and different. The desire to travel down both paths is expressed and not unusual, but the speaker of this poem realizes that the decision is not just a temporary one and he “…doubted if I should ever come back.” At the end of The Road Not Taken, the regret hangs over the traveler like a heavy cloud about to burst. He realizes that at the end of his life, “somewhere ages and ages hence”, he will have regrets about having never gone back and traveling down the roads he did not take. However, he remains proud of his decision and he recognizes that it was this path that he chose that made him turn out the way he did and live his life the way in which he lived. “I took the road less traveled by and that had made all the difference.” In this poem, there is no judgment, no specificity, no moral but simply a narrator who makes a decision in his life that changed the direction of his life from what it may have otherwise been. Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening had also left many of its readers with many different interpretations. Some think that the snow represents his old age that has isolated him from society believes. The most popular idea, however, is that Frost’s desire to end his own life because of some overpowering circumstances. However, Frost wrote this poem, in November (Frost Chronology) 1923; on the same late night he finished his book New Hampshire (Jackson). Being "a little excited from getting over-tired"(Jackson), he decided to venture out into the wilderness, probably to calm down. Frost hitched his horse to a sleigh and left on his journey to eventually find the "Woods" in this poem. Being in an "auto intoxicated"(Jackson) state, Frost was mesmerized by the scene of the woods beside the frozen lake. He eventually broke out of his trance, possibly with the aid of his horse, by thoughts of prior commitments. The former statement is shown in the text by: "He gives his harness bells a shake / To ask if there is some mistake,” and the latter by: "But I have promises to keep / And miles to go before I sleep." According to Frost, upon his return home, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" was written in a few minutes without any strain"(Jackson). Therefore, Frost wrote this poem about himself and his journey. In and of itself, the poem is an extended metaphor for perseverance. The reader only realizes this after having finished reading the poem because the information about the narrator's prior commitments and fatigue is provided at the end. In retrospect, the first stanza can be analyzed as the narrator's difficult journey. The middle and last parts of the text, like the woods, can be seen as the temptation, as is evident in the lines "The woods are lovely dark and deep". However, the narrator overcomes his temptation shown by: "But I have promises to keep / And miles to go before I sleep…" Just as stated earlier, Frost wrote this poem about himself, therefore the same conclusions can be drawn about his hard work and perseverance on New Hampshire. The poem's message is to rally on in the face of adversity. Just like the two other poems, Design has many different interpretations that can be drawn. Some, once again, think that he is writing about death because of the interactions between the unusual white spider, flower, and moth. However, in this poem, Frost describes the idea of “survival of the fittest” by dealing with many scenarios, including life vs. death, while examining the lives of three organisms, and their interaction. A sickly flower, a naive moth, and a cunning spider combine to form the mildly morbid scene acted out in Design. The blighted flower is innocent in the death of the moth. A "white heal-all" makes a perfect cover for a "spider, fat and white" trying to catch breakfast. A white moth tries to take advantage of the flower as well, when it lights on the heal-all in order to rest. The spider can also be considered as innocent. It did not have a malicious motivation in killing the moth, just hunger driving it to feast on the first item it could. Our moth shows the essence of innocence, not giving a second thought to landing on the flower. Unwary and tired, it chose its landing area without care, and consequently, the moth dies. The relationship of the organisms is caught in the theme of life vs. death as the event of an animal using its surroundings as an advantage to take what it wants. A "snow- drop spider" can blend in with the flower, creating the perfect death trap. While the moth dies, the spider feeds on him and lives on. It shows that in nature, death by one always gives life to another. While waking through a meadow, Frost took a long, hard look into nature and pondered its motives. Why must one die? What is the purpose? As an answer to these questions, Frost wrote Design. In the last few sentences, he wrote “What but design of darkness to appall? - / If design govern in a thing so small.” Unanswerable except by Mother Nature herself, this question gets down to the heart of everything. Frost seems to be saying that destiny is the power that changes everything. It even controls the smallest things like a spider. Only by allowing destiny to prevail will we continue to live on. Robert Frost has written many great poems including The Road Not Taken, Design, and Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. All of these poems have influenced the lives of their readers. Each person had a different interpretation of the poem. He used imagery, smooth words, and a unique rhythm to catch readers and make them absorb every word leading them to their own interpretation. That is why I chose to analyze Robert Frost and a few of his greatest poems. May his legacy live on.