Is the Path Really Less Traveled

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.

Robert Frost wrote the poem The Road Not Taken which at first sight and if you just concentrate on the ending of this poem, seems to be about a person that comes to a fork in the road and after contemplating which path that he should choose, he takes the road less traveled by and this positively benefited his life by taking the path that most others didn’t choose.  Poems can have many different meanings to different people, and certainly parts of this particular poem are very much open to interpretation, but the central character of this poem sees these two roads as identical and he admits that he had no real reason to take one over the other, so the end of this poem, which most people take as the real meaning, goes against everything that he previously said.  Frost is saying things and then he is second guessing what he just said.

He decides to take the path that “was grassy and wanted wear”, but then he clarifies that each path had about the same wear.  He feels disappointment because he is not able to travel on each path, maybe wondering what sights he might be missing on the other path, but he has no desire to come back this way again, because of how life and time affects everyone, and he comes to grip with the fact that he will never walk on that other path.  The last verse has five lines, but most people only know the last three lines and this is why they confuse the real meaning of this poem.

A man is hiking along in the woods when he is abruptly confronted with a fork in the path.  He pauses, he hesitates, and wonders if by travelling on one road instead of the other could make a difference in his life.  This is not about choice; it is about disappointment of being at a crossroads and crying over what might have been.  People like to think that they could travel down a lonely path possibly taking a great risk, and receive a great reward for making the right choice.  This poem is about the road that he didn’t try or what he didn’t do, or what he missed on the road that he didn’t take and it is not about having success for choosing one path over the other.  Frost is not con­gratulating himself for taking a that was less traveled by others, as this poem is more about the journey and less about the path that was chosen.

Written for GC and Sue W Weekly Prompts, where the challenge is to use the word – Path.

12 thoughts on “Is the Path Really Less Traveled

  1. I read another interpretation of the poem. Even though he says the paths are about equal, years hence he will be saying they were unequal. His memory will be romanticizing the choice he made. So it is also about our tendency to remember the past such as to preserve our self-image and not necessarily as it actually was.

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  2. About two years ago our little family decided to try memorization skills, since they are sorely lacking in most of us these days. I chose to learn this poem. I must admit, I only got the first two verses done (and I went further along in the project than my sweetie or kiddo) … how DID we memorize whole poems in school?
    Anyway, a great poem and a good outlook on life… because we never know for sure what was on the other path. We could have met the true love of our life or stumbled upon buried treasure, but we could also have been hit by a truck. So we might as well be content with the path we chose and see the good landmarks along it.

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    1. The only poem that I remember having to memorize in school was the Joyce Kilmer Tree poem and I liked that one because it had breasts. You never know what is going to happen and thanks for sharing your thought here Dave.


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