PLEASE Stop Misinterpreting “The Road Not Taken”!

PLEASE Stop Misinterpreting “The Road Not Taken”!

Okay, that’s it. I’ve had it. Those of you who are using the last lines of Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” as your anthem of independence, uniqueness, and taking rare roads that others don’t take? You need to stop it. Because you’re getting it wrong. What you think the poem means isn’t what it means at all. In fact, it’s kind of the opposite. And this poem, when read in its entirety, is far, far more complex and interesting, which is why it has been my favorite poem (and the only poem I ever memorized), since I was twelve.

So let’s break it down and I’ll show you what this poem really means, because I actually think you’re going to find it far more intriguing and fascinating when you understand it.

The Original Poem

Comic by ZenPencils

The Road Not Taken

BY ROBERT FROST
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 erged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Breakdown

Stanza 1: I encounter two roads

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;

What It Means:

So here I am, a lone traveler, standing at a crossroads. There are two roads. I can take either one. I look as far as I can down one of the roads, but I can’t see past a certain point, so I really don’t know what lies ahead.

Stanza 2: I take one of the roads

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,

What It Means:

“Took the other, as just as fair” means that this road that I took is just as nice as the other one. And this one is “grassy and wanted wear,” so at first the reader thinks it’s maybe been traveled less than the other one, right? But no. “Though as for that the passing there, Had worn them really about the same,” tells the reader that the two roads are really just about the same. They’ve both been traveled equally.

Stanza 3:

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.

What It Means:

See? They both “equally lay” with very few leaves that had been “trodden black.” That means that neither road was very well-traveled, really. And “Oh, I kept the first for another day,” means that I, the traveler, decided to leave the other path to take another day- but it’s a little sarcastic, that line, because “I doubted if I should ever come back.” So even though I’ll probably never be back this way, I’ll pretend to myself that I’ll take that other path another day. It’s complex, this thought, because I want to pretend and kind of lie to myself (in the way that we do) that I’m not really giving up an opportunity, but rather just saving it for another time, even though I really know that time may never come.

Stanza 4:

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.

What It Means:

This is the most telling stanza of the poem. It talks about how we rewrite our own histories. We tell stories and revise our memories as if decisions were made differently than they really were. “I shall be telling this with a sigh, Somewhere ages and ages hence” means someday, down the road, when I’m old and telling stories about my past, I’ll sigh and say that I took the road less traveled by and that’s what “made all the difference” in how my life turned out.

But we, the readers, know that it wasn’t taking that road that made the difference. In fact, that road that I took, it wasn’t any less traveled by than the first. We know that from the first and second stanzas. The roads were the same.

What The Poem Actually Means

Look, poetry is subjective, to some degree. But appropriating portions of someone’s work while ascribing your own meaning to it is wrong, especially when a) that someone is a brilliant, complex poet like Robert Frost, and b) the meaning you ascribe is totally wrong.

This poem is so much more complex than just “Hey, I took a road that most people don’t take, and that has made my life better and that’s why I got all the amazing results I got in my life.” The message is far more like, “I took a road. It could’ve been another road. But this is the one I took. One day, I’ll say that it was this choice, in this moment, to take this particular road that made my life better, but in fact, both roads weren’t very different from one another, so my life might’ve been different if I’d taken the other road, but probably would’ve yielded other cool stuff.”

It’s always fascinating to look back on your life and wonder what other roads you might’ve taken (need or want some help taking stock and figuring out the road ahead? Hire me to coach you!) Haven’t we all had those moments where the “road diverged” and both roads ahead are equally fascinating and equally cool? But you take one or the other and your life happens after that.

Maybe you look back and think, “I wonder what if I’d taken that other road…” but usually, we look back, forget the challenge of that decision and how appealing that other choice was, and sigh and say, “I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

By | 2017-05-22T15:19:49+00:00 February 1st, 2013|Personal Growth, Writing|127 Comments

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About the Author:

Susan Baroncini-Moe is an executive coach for high-performing individuals. As a "deep dive," strategic intervention coach, Susan has worked with clients on four continents in a wide range of industries. She is a sought-after strategist, and she and her businesses have been featured on ABC and in Redbook magazine, USA Today, MSN Living, Yahoo Finance, Investors Business Daily, Social Media Examiner, American Express Open Forum, Chicago Tribune, Indianapolis Star, and more.

127 Comments

  1. Doug Wagner February 1, 2013 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    Thanks for clearing that one up Susan and for bringing back memories of English Literature classes. 🙂

    Yes, we tend to gloss over the past and either cherish or regret those choices we’ve made. Yet they are all intertwined in the happenings of the world and we can never know if things indeed would be better or worse if the choices were different.

    Far better to focus on today and making the best choices we can now; whichever way they will turn out.

    • Susan February 6, 2013 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      HA, Doug, I know, I know. It was very English Lit, but it’s my favorite poem and it’s been so misused…LOL

      • Woody Driskill February 18, 2013 at 12:04 pm - Reply

        Not really. It has generally been intrepreted as written. You have misunderstood the second stanza. Clearly, the roads were the same and thus were equally traveled up to the point of divergence. At that point, one road has been much-traveled, the other less so. Simple, clear…very “Frost.” You have tried to make too much of it and totally have missed the mark.

        • Susan February 18, 2013 at 12:11 pm - Reply

          Woody, the poem is about a single road that diverged- meaning there’s one road that broke into two, which were equally well-traveled. I think you may have misunderstood the word “diverged.”

          I haven’t made too much of this poem- actually, it’s my favorite of all time, largely because it perfectly and beautifully encapsulates my philosophy of life. It’s a great poem, it’s just one that has been largely misunderstood.

          • Tanya April 24, 2014 at 12:57 pm

            but what do the leaves symbolize?

        • joeyjojo March 26, 2013 at 10:05 am - Reply

          Woody – so, over the horizon, once the poet can’t see anymore, there is a transporter which magically moves people from one road to the other so that the one road can suddenly become more travelled than the other after getting to a point where they were both equally travelled? Man, this Frost guy was into some deep sci-fi stuff!

        • Kathy Kautzman April 2, 2013 at 6:48 am - Reply

          If both roads were “equally traveled” then how do you interpret the line “I took the one less traveled by” ?

          • Jason April 4, 2013 at 5:33 am

            That is the poet lying to himself in the future. Read it carefully.

          • Nate Jusko December 3, 2015 at 11:12 am

            Because that final stanza is from the perspective of the narrator telling the story in the future. He’s changing his-story (“history”, get it) in order to add an emphasis on either satisfaction or regret. Interestingly enough, the only portion of this poem that is tricky is often the one that’s passed right over…the “sigh.” This is why Frost and his publisher had to come out with some context on that particular line of the poem. Frost stated that this poem was based on his friend Edward Thomas who, in Frost’s own words, was “a person who, whichever road he went, would be sorry he didn’t go the other.” This is a poem of regret, not of satisfaction. Which is why it’s absolutely hilarious when you see people use it as a source of pride, all that should tell you is that they don’t know how to critically analyze a text.

        • Erinne Raine June 30, 2017 at 11:33 am - Reply

          Woody, no. If it has commonly been interpreted by people to mean what it is usually misrepresented as conveying, you are paying too much attention to the opinions of– pick one or more– superficial, thoughtless, dense, common, and/or poorly educated people — PRECISELY WHAT MS. BARONCINI-MOE WROTE THE BLOG IN EXASPERATION OF.

          Or perhaps you and/or your sources have PhDs in Mansplaining of which we are unaware. I may be mistaken but that is very much my impression. Do you have credible credentials to eliminate that perception?

          Frost is 20th century. This isn’t Romanticism or Man vs. Nature. 20th c lit is hypocrisy, irony, the lies we tell others & ourselves (and typically how that bites us in the ass… in this case, perhaps by spreading falsehoods he could cause others to lose a cheek ).

          Besides Life & ceaseless self-education, mine are limited to American Studies & Anthro majors with African-Am Studies minor & 32 credits in Lit (not all in English) from an elite liberal arts college, MLS with Phi Kappa Phi honor society (played too much undergrad). Four yrs HS TAG English in 5-8 student class with ALL Lit, no grammar (which unfortunately shows on occasion), might also be a factor.

          This is why I prefer Herrick’s “To the virgins, to make much of time”. No misunderstandings there.

          • Erinne Raine June 30, 2017 at 11:38 am

            Susan, you totally rocked it — OUTSTANDING job! No hard feelings if you don’t approve my big reply.

          • Susan September 21, 2017 at 8:07 pm

            Thank you, Erinne!!

  2. Bill February 1, 2013 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    The one fact we cannot change is the direction we chose all those years. You are correct that we can change directions, but it will still be a different “road”. It will never be exactly same, since all things in life are constantly changing. It will also never be the road that others traveled. Similar? Yes, but not the same, since our perspectives will vary like our cellular DNA. We can both see the fork in the road. Take the same road, but our experiences will be vastly different Pretending helps us come to grips with the choice that we made, so I agree with you.

    • Susan February 6, 2013 at 3:06 pm - Reply

      Bill, that’s a good point. You can’t go BACK, but you can shift directions. And if you and I take the same path, because we’re different people, we’ll experience it differently. Exactly!

  3. mantaray February 10, 2013 at 5:15 am - Reply

    I’ve been crying this one from the rooftops for ages now, and all I get is rolled eyes and people thinking *I’ve* misread the poem. “But it’s all about post-justification!” I say. “It’s not about choosing paths at all — it’s about the fact that by the end of your life, it won’t have really made a difference which path you take. You’ll look back and make your own mythology out of whatever choices you did make!” People don’t really like to hear that their deep connection with a poem – their life’s very compass – is rooted in a misunderstanding.

    • Susan February 10, 2013 at 11:19 am - Reply

      I totally agree with you, mantaray. However…as someone on my Facebook page pointed out (and something I hadn’t considered when I wrote the post), there’s something to be said for honoring the poet’s original intent and taking what you can as inspiration from something that’s meaningful to you.

      • Yvonne March 14, 2013 at 6:35 am - Reply

        I’ve enjoyed the hearing and reading of this poem for years, as I’ve enjoyed the concept of a true interpretation, but I must agree that it is an academic fallacy to lay claim on the singular meaning of a poem. It may be an affront to the art to say there is AN interpretation. Poetry is written so that it can be accessible from multiple angles and carry nuances of meaning; otherwise, the writer would convey what they wished more plainly. Poetry then, is less about the message, or the hidden code as people seem to take it, and more about the facility of language to express the complexities of our thoughts in written imagery. This is most likely, of course, why great poets remain great: “they leave us hanging,” as it were, so their expression is arguable and worthy of discussion. Having said this, I’ve pondered for some time why Frost chose the phrases “Two roads diverged” (as this can be taken different ways) and “that has made all the difference.” I wonder also this evening if he chose two for simplicity, or to quietly hint at how most choices embody a decision between yes or no, to be or not to be, to do or not to do, less than it is between options, which are multitudinous. Following the cyclical nature of this poem, I noticed tonight how Frost used “diverge” (to extend in different directions) and “difference” to echo each other at the poem’s onset and end. 🙂 I wonder if his use of the word “difference,” following your logic, is in some ways sarcastic? 🙂

    • jjohnson March 29, 2013 at 10:19 am - Reply

      See I don’t think it’s necessarily a misinterpretation, merely an oversimplification. Personally, I interpret it less as justification for which path i take, but more regret for whatever path i don’t take no matter which i choose. Senseless, yes, but very indicative of my mentality. I’m the kind of person who orders something at the restaurant and regrets it immediately and is always sure that if i’d ordered something else that i would have enjoyed it more. Yes, the “less traveled by” is a self justification for why one path is better than the other, but it’s an exercise in futility because Either way leads to disappointment and regret.

  4. Jubal February 13, 2013 at 1:17 am - Reply

    My middle school had the last two lines painted above the main entrance. I used to think it was corny, now that I’ve read the whole poem I realize it was prophetic.

  5. Tom February 18, 2013 at 7:34 am - Reply

    Is this a commentary on free will? Perhaps Frost is saying that the existence of free will isn’t the important question — the real conundrum is in knowing if the choices one can make are genuine or false. Of course, we can know the outcomes only in hindsight, when we can, as humans do, tidy up the facts and tell our stories with a sigh.

    • Susan February 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm - Reply

      Tom, I’m curious about what you mean when you talk about knowing if the choices one can make are “geniune” or “false.” Do you mean the best choices or the…less best ones?

      At the end of the day, I think your last comment is exactly what Frost means in the poem- that we can only know how things went when we look back upon our lives…but he’s also saying that we engage in a certain amount of revisionist history in that perspective, if only to afford ourselves comfort that we made the best decisions.

  6. Holly Noelle February 21, 2013 at 1:00 am - Reply

    That poem is American Literature—-NOT ENGLISH literature. I to memorized this poem by choice @ age 12 for a humiliating class presentation; and it is the one and only poem I ever memorized. I was a science nerd. Now in retirement, I have learned to enjoy more poetry. The only thing I remember from class was having it drilled into my head that “you are in an American Literature class; you will have English Literature NEXT YEAR”. Please learn this piece of information if you learn nothing else in my class!!!!

    • Susan February 21, 2013 at 9:16 am - Reply

      LOL, Holly, of course that’s true. Not sure where you are in the world, but here in the States, we have “English class,” and frequently learn poetry of all kinds from all different places in that class. I think that’s where much of the confusion here comes from. But make no mistake, Frost is my favorite AMERICAN poet. 🙂

    • VioletStrange February 22, 2013 at 4:48 am - Reply

      Where I went to school the most well known bits of Frost’s work were split between both English and American Lit classes (he was covered in more depth in the Poetry elective) because English in a class’s title *always* referred to the language, so an English Lit class could cover anyone who wrote in English. Focusing on authors by nationality would have been in Brit Lit or American Lit.

      This has the happy side effect of not making writers spin in their graves if they were from somewhere that could be (depending on political beliefs) or formerly was considered the British Isles but who would be horrified to be called ‘English’.

    • louis March 15, 2013 at 8:29 am - Reply

      In the 70’s I also sang “The Road Not Taken” in middle school choir. I still sing it to myself, a fact my wife would all too willingly verify. Sometimes those walk through untrodden leaves just call for it. My dog seems to enjoy/endure my musical tribute to Robert Frost.

  7. Gretchen Williams February 21, 2013 at 2:01 am - Reply

    I had a marvelous choir teacher from 7th through 12th grade, (Salem, Oregon, 1966-1972) and somewhere in those 6 years, we learned a song from this beautiful poem. I can hear the melody in my mind, “I shall be telling this with a sigh, some where ages and ages hence, two roads diverged in a wood and I . . . I took the one less travellllllllled by, and that has made all the diiiiifff-fffer-ence.” I carry this with me through the years. And it seems like we sang the song together at a houseparty on graduation night as the sun rose. What memories! 40+ years ago … and I shall be telling this with a sigh . . . . so many roads diverged in my life at so many points.

    • Susan February 21, 2013 at 9:17 am - Reply

      Whoa, Gretchen, a SONG with this poem as the lyrics? I love that!! Wish I could hear it. If you happen to find it somewhere, do let me know. Cool!

      • Ted Talbert October 26, 2015 at 2:02 pm - Reply

        Randall Thompson wrote “Fropstiana” in 1959 or thereabouts, with text based on 6 or 7 Frost poems, of which this is one. It is on youtube, I’m sure.

    • Cynthia Craig February 22, 2013 at 3:53 am - Reply

      “Yet knowing how way leads onto way” also means change brought by time as well as distance. Like Herodotus: “you cannot step twice into the same stream” – because both you and the water will be different.
      Looking back, things are never quite the same; you are seeing through changed experiences. Memories are inexact. Most importantly, Frost is “telling it”- that is, writing it, narrating it, giving it a pattern (or some would argue, detecting the pattern in his past life – this is the big question about writing memoirs, of course).
      Possibly Frost was poking fun at his younger self, too – “they really were about the same, but I wanted to be a person who took the road less-traveled by, so I decided that one of them was.” If the choice he hesitated over did make a difference, nobody can know, because, as he states, he is only one person.

  8. Swift Loris February 22, 2013 at 5:59 am - Reply

    I always thought the key reason the poet did not take the first road was that he could not see where it went. He does not say that about the road he did take. We can infer that he took it because it appeared safer. This adds another level of irony to his subsequent rationalizations for his choice.

    • Cynthia February 28, 2013 at 4:22 am - Reply

      He is uneasy about ithe first road because it bends at a certain point? Certainly there are no accidents in the poem. Is he then hiding his having chosen the safer road by calling it “The one less traveled by”? He then subverts this by pointing out that there really was no difference between them, but ends by saying that it “made all the difference.” Quite a clever construction of how tangled our reasoning can be when explaining things to ourselves, especially in hindsight.

  9. Steve February 26, 2013 at 4:37 am - Reply

    Robert Frost having attended school at Dartmouth and lived for many years in Northern New England was a shunpiker at heart with all the wondrous encounters of traveling all kinds of roads.

    • Susan February 26, 2013 at 9:29 am - Reply

      Steve, that is an AMAZING word!!! Shunpiker- had to look it up. Thank you. 🙂

  10. Josh February 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm - Reply

    Susan,
    Maybe next time you’ll sort out
    “Good fences make good neighbors”.
    It drives me insane the way people interpret that.

    • Susan February 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm - Reply

      Josh, that’s hilarious! But…do people relate that to business??!

      • Anon February 28, 2013 at 11:23 pm - Reply

        The problem isn’t what they relate it to, it’s that they take that line literally and out of context. They think that good fences actually make good neighbors.

        Back to the subject of “The Road not Taken”, there is a bit of beautiful irony in the misunderstanding you so hate. People who think of themselves as unique because they take the less traveled path are either looking back on their lives and justifying choices, or looking forward and pre-justifying choices–and both of these things are exactly what this poem is about. So they may misunderstand the poem, but the things they say when misunderstanding the poem are what the poem is talking about.

    • Zippy Doo Dah November 5, 2015 at 7:06 pm - Reply

      I think you all got it wrong. He took the road “less traveled by” meaning he was on the road that most people take as they “go by” the road that is less often traveled. He took the safe route and now wishes he had been more adventurous. Thank you.

  11. Pete Formaini March 6, 2013 at 6:21 am - Reply

    Susan:

    Thank you!!

    Now if you could correct the nearly universal misunderstanding of, “…strong fences make good neighbors.”!! 😀

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 5:05 pm - Reply

      I could. Shall I tackle that next? 😉

  12. Mark Eddy Smith March 26, 2013 at 10:07 am - Reply

    I stand with the “misinterpreters,” and you have not persuaded me otherwise. I have always taken this poem to be about Frost’s decision to dedicate his life to poetry. He wasn’t the first–plenty have trod that path before and since–but a life of letters is most certainly “the road less traveled by,” and his choice made a discernible difference to the world. He might have led a perfectly serviceable and satisfying life as a farmer or a teacher, and in fact he might have been happier (i.e., less lonely or less subject to public scrutiny) had he chosen a more conventional route, but I see no reason to impute sarcasm to any of these lines. Frost was not a particularly ironic poet. Sardonic, at times, but never sarcastic.

    Nevertheless, how glorious it is to have an opportunity to engage with Frost’s poetry on a dull Tuesday morning (even if I am late to the discussion), and I echo the commenters who have decried the pernicious misuse of Mending Wall.

    • Dee April 2, 2013 at 8:26 am - Reply

      Mark perhaps you should know Frost’s personal history before assuming your interpretation or rather misinterpretation is the correct one. Frost was actually in a bit on inner turmoil over life choices, He was in fact referring to how he made a hard, solemn, less gratifying choice, instead of following his heart. there was indeed sarcasm, and though he could of been much happier perhaps, yet made a Correct , virtuous choice instead of a torrid love affair..He lived for his “afterlife soul” vs “Eternal damnation” as were the times. To know the man means to understand his words.

      • Mark Eddy Smith April 21, 2013 at 9:30 pm - Reply

        I’d like to point out that I was owning my misinterpretation, not claiming my interpretation as correct. As for knowing the man in order to understand his words, I agree it can help, at times tremendously, but shouldn’t a poem be able to stand on its own? We know next to nothing about the Beowulf poet; does that mean we can’t understand the poem? I dared express an opinion on The Road Not Taken, not because I think i know what I’m talking about but because of a famous (possibly apocryphal) exchange between Frost and one of his readers.

        I believe it had to do with Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. The reader set forth a deep and complex interpretation of the poem and its symbolism and asked, “Is that what you meant by the poem?” Frost responded, “It is now.”

        I’m not claiming he would say the same if I asked his opinion of my interpretation of The Road Not Taken; I’m simply noting that he was open to the idea of one of his poems transcending his intentions. In any event, I believe the burden of persuasion lies in the poem itself more than in the author’s biography.

        P.S. I certainly retract my assertion that Frost was “never sarcastic.” That was sloppy writing on my part.

  13. Dee April 2, 2013 at 8:16 am - Reply

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU! ~ Perhaps I found your article a bit of a triumph on a personal matter. It rang so true, in a recent personal event in which this piece was used wrongly. Thank you for my own vindication. I appreciate your taking the time to teach the generation of “College educated”. Having no such degree myself, and knowing how this literary piece has indeed been misinterpreted for a very long time; your words, this article “tickled and delighted” inner sensibilities. To learn a thing quickly and move on to the next may seem efficient within today’s younger generations, but how much they miss, how much they assume, how much they cheat themselves of True knowledge and understanding of the author’s words, personal history, and his meaning.
    Those that have misinterpreted this piece of work are unaware of how shallow and transparent their own nature appears to those who have taken the time to “Truly know”.
    Put in modern layman’s terms, I smile each time you open your mouths to misquote, brag of your superiority and false sense of self. Your” faking it, till you make it”; it shows more than you think. (ROFL)
    Now onward to the differences between education and intelligence, and Cocky vs confidence…

  14. Christopher April 16, 2013 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Finally! I’ve been trying to tell people this for years. People forget (or rather, never knew in the first place) that Frost loved irony, and this poem is absolutely dripping with it. This is the biggest poetic troll in the history of poetry; it would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

    The point of the poem is that we’re never “in the moment,” we’re always looking forward to the future, or looking back into the past but we’re never fully invested in the present where our lives actually take place. The first three stanzas take place in the past, and the fourth in the future. In the past he was looking forward, in the present he is looking back and also “somewhere ages and ages hence,” and in the future he’s once again looking back into the past.

    The only true regret is not living, not appreciating life as it happens. Regretting choices made is an act of self-delusion.

    We ask ourselves, “Who am I?” and we’re answered: “I was” or “I will be”

    The oft-quoted concluding lines of the poem are used to glorify individuality but are actually a sad ironic commentary on the human tendency to mythologize life experiences.

    Perhaps the greatest irony of Frost’s poem is that it is often referred to mistakenly as “The Road Less Traveled” because of the famous concluding lines, while the actual title, “The Road Not Taken,” is virtually overlooked. What does the traveler tell us about the path he did take? Nothing. He does not say where it led or what truths he found or experiences he had.

  15. Rob DuBois May 9, 2014 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    Susan, thank you for taking the time to lay out your perspective on this classic poem. I have to admit to being torn about your conviction to the interpretation, though–did Frost tell you personally that what you wrote is what he meant? Alternatively, do you have a record of his elaborating on it that is te basis for what you declared it means? In my opinion, my interpretation (which differs from yours) shouldn’t have less merit if we’re both seeing it as open-mindedly as we can.

    • Susan May 13, 2014 at 4:26 pm - Reply

      Rob, no, of course the poet never told me what he meant. However, my interpretation is based on my careful reading of the poem as well as recurring themes in his work. Everyone is welcome to think what they want…even if they’re wrong. 😉

      • Deodatta V. SHENAI-Khatkhate June 5, 2015 at 11:00 pm - Reply

        In my view, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, is a very interesting poem. It is also one of my most favorite poems. Frost had first published this poem almost 100 years ago, in 1916, in the collection entitled “Mountain Interval“. My take is that we often meet circumstances that need taking difficult decisions and making tough choices where we must select one path and reject one that may be an equally attractive alternative. I also believe that this poem becomes more interesting and tricky because of the “sigh” (of regret or self-satisfaction?!) in the final stanza. In response to the question about Frost’s own words and elaboration, here are my two cents…..In Frost’s own words, the sigh was explained as: “It was my rather private jest at the expense of those who might think I would yet live to be sorry for the way I had taken in life.” Whether the sigh being one of satisfaction or deep regret, the poem touches the fundamental human tendency of analyzing the decisions made years earlier to convince oneself that the decision taken was logical and most importantly, one “that has made all the difference”. Hope this helps!

  16. readfoucault August 21, 2014 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    remember, the road he takes has “perhaps the better claim / because it was grassy and wanted wear” – in other words, while one road “bent in the undergrowth,” the other appears to have gotten quite a bit of sunshine (grass generally requiring it). I don’t think it’s so much that the “choice” wasn’t really a choice; I think it’s more that he took the easy way out.

  17. Amanda September 23, 2014 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    After that oversimplified explanation, how can that be your favorite poem? I don’t agree with your interpretation and find it insulting that you put down people and their own interpretation of the poem and using it as inspiration. An individual’s interpretation of poetry is essential to poetry. Do you want to be a teacher that tells me how I must interpret this?

  18. paul lozano October 13, 2014 at 5:30 pm - Reply

    thank you

  19. Sandra October 30, 2014 at 11:42 pm - Reply

    Thx I had hw on this and I was really confused. This cleared everything up!

  20. Njoood November 28, 2014 at 9:10 am - Reply

    In ” The Road not Taken,” what do you think is meant by “two roads diverged in a yellow wood.

  21. Rachael December 12, 2014 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    The phrase “And that has made all the difference” doesn’t even sound like the rest of the poem, stands apart from it…clueing that it’s something the speaker doesn’t really believe at the moment or is something someone else says/would say(for instance a future self).

  22. Jeni March 5, 2015 at 6:07 pm - Reply

    I feel like poetry is up for interpretation. The beauty of literature is just that, that it can mean something different to each individual. We can relate to it in different ways. Frost could have had a purpose but as the reader you have the right to come upon your own understanding.

  23. Andew March 12, 2015 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    People are taking a positve mataphore out of something apparantly redundant. Enduring hardship to make you a stronger person rather taking the easy path and cheating yourself out of the physical and mental enrichment that life’s challenges procure, is much more motavional than, your choices didn’t really matter. “Misinterpreting” this poem is the best thing to happen to it in my opinion.

  24. Deb June 4, 2015 at 10:10 am - Reply

    I still like the more popular meaning and will go with that, lol.

  25. Deodatta V. SHENAI-Khatkhate June 5, 2015 at 8:15 am - Reply

    Interesting indeed! Thanks for sharing! Few years ago, I had paid my tribute this amazingly complex and equally beautiful poem by Robert Frost – with the theme that the protagonist does not follow either of the two roads, but creates his own road instead, to follow his dreams….and reminisces that it must’ve made all the difference. Here is that respectful tribute to great American poet, Robert Frost: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. And sorry I could not travel either of those. Neither the one less traveled by. Nor the one most traveled by. Instead, I created my own road. The road to follow my Dreams. After all, any road is only a road. Until you make something of it. Like Life is full of millions of choices. And yet Life is also what you make of it. Every learning I gained in my journey. Left the leaves trodden black. And now I reminisce with a sigh. Somewhere ages and ages hence. Down magical memory lane. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. And I, I created my own road. To follow my own dreams. And that’s what must’ve made all the difference. Life goes on! La Vie Continue!”

    Reference: http://www.quotes.net/quote/62915?post_id=10205333597954028_10205577462290484#_=_

  26. Emily June 24, 2015 at 10:13 pm - Reply

    If we want to be technical, this poem is actually a sarcastic jab that Frost wrote to one of his writer friends. Every time they went for a walk in the woods (which they did often), his friend would complain that they should have taken a different path than the one they did, though it really made no difference. “That has made all the difference” is just Frost using satire to poke fun at his friend who felt like he always picked the wrong path to walk.

    (Frost has said this before in interviews. I just wanted to mention that so it doesn’t seem like I’m assuming I know what Frost meant with this poem.)

  27. Charlie June 26, 2015 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    Interesting discussion about a marvellous poem. But there’s one thing that’s always worried me, and it’s so obvious that as far as I know no one seems to have noticed it. It occurs in the first three words. Frost really means that ‘a road’ diverged… If one road diverges, it becomes two. Two roads can meet and become one. But if two roads diverge, they become – four. I truly wish this had never occurred to me.

    • Jay September 5, 2015 at 2:22 pm - Reply

      Charlie: You really had me thinking there, but you need only look up “diverge” in a dictionary to put your mind at ease. You are thinking that it means “to split,” when in reality, it means “to go in separate directions.” The poem begins with the narrator following two parallel roads as they are finally separating, and he has to make a choice. To me, this adds even more layers to the work that people don’t generally recognize. Oftentimes, two roads are there with us for a while before we make a decision or are forced to make a decision, and it is only in that profound moment that they finally diverge.

      As far as this article, it is arrogant to try impose your interpretation of the poem as gospel. You say that everyone is misinterpreting it, but that assumes that this poem, or any piece, must have a singular meaning, which is flawed. Poets are absolutely entitled to assign meaning to their work, but the reader has this privilege equally, and no one can strip the consumer of that right. Attempting to impose a singular meaning to a poem that has left the hand of its poet is like ripping open a feather pillow in a tornado and trying to contain its contents.

      However, if you insist on condescendingly browbeating everyone into a shared interpretation, then why not research Frost’s comments on the poem which clearly state that it is simply a poem of indecisiveness and the anxiety from which some people (in particular, his friend, Edward Thomas) suffer over their choices. Frost’s “meaning” was to poke fun at his companion, but he later accepted that it was a “tricky” poem which could have deeper meanings. Even Frost allowed for readership to enjoy their own interpretations. So should you.

  28. Douglas Adams October 12, 2015 at 6:27 pm - Reply

    With all due respect, while much of your analysis is right on target, I think you are still missing a crucial point.

    As you describe, in the poem wo paths presented themselves which, at the time, seemed more or less equal. The writer chose one, thinking that he could come back to the other later, although recognizing that, the way life is, he probably wouldn’t. The path he chose today would be the one he stayed on. And that is apparently exactly what happened. At the time the choices seemed equal, but since a choice was required (he couldn’t travel both) the writer made the choice based on his perception that one seemed a bit more attractive to him (although admitting that the supposed attractiveness might be an illusion that he was reading into the choice). However, the key to understanding the final stanza is recognizing that it is written in retrospect, “ages and ages hence”. With the gift of hindsight, the writer can see that the path he took was the one less traveled by, and recognizes that taking it made all the difference. Since he says this in hindsight, he must be aware of where the path he did not take would have led, otherwise, how would know now that it was the more travelled? Perhaps he met others who had taken that path and saw how it worked out for them. The writer does not say that taking the path he chose was necessarily a positive thing. In fact, in retrospect he is telling the story “with a sigh”, perhaps indicating he wished he had gone the other way. But choices are choices. He made his and things worked out the way they did, end of story.

    To illustrate how this may be applied, consider the case of Bill Gates. In 1973, Bill Gates went to Harvard and was pursuing computer science studies. At that time he was on the same path as the other Harvard students; to get a college degree and go on to work for a company in his chosen field of study. However, after his sophomore year, another path presented itself. Now he saw two possible roads into the future; stay in school and go work for someone else, or drop out, start his own company and work for himself. The paths “diverged”; he couldn’t take both and do either of them justice. He had to make a choice. At the time, both paths ahead disappeared into the undergrowth since he could not foresee how either would turn out. And both paths could have appeared more or less equal at the time in terms of the potential for success. He no doubt was aware of both successful Harvard graduates and successful entrepreneurs. But the path toward entrepreneurship looked more attractive to him at the time, and he may have reasoned that he could always come back to college if trying to start his own business did not work out (although he may have suspected that he probably wouldn’t). So, in 1975, he dropped out of Harvard and went on to found Microsoft. As they say, the rest is history. Now, in retrospect, it can be said that the path Bill Gates took turned out to be the road less travelled. Few people in history have ever accomplished what Bill Gates has done. But he could not have known in 1975 where the path he chose would lead. Nevertheless, looking back, he took the road less travelled by, and, indeed, that has made all the difference. But to complete the analogy, Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world, so where would the sighing come in? Well, his life has not been without a downside. He has been hated and vilified by many. Being famous means he must live a somewhat isolated existence and he must constantly be concerned about his own personal safety and the safety of his family. There may have been times when he longed for a simpler life and wondered if taking the other path might have been less stressful. But he made his choice and he has embraced it, advancing not only technology, but also using his resultant wealth to support many charitable causes, to a degree that would never have been possible had he taken the other path. The road he chose has made “all the difference”, not just to Bill Gates, but to millions.

    Interestingly, Bill Gates was awarded an honorary degree from Harvard in 2007.

  29. A October 29, 2015 at 10:08 am - Reply

    Art is subjective. Anyone who says otherwise arrogantly thinks highly of themselves and their opinions, as well as takes pleasure in the silencing of others views and interpretations.
    Who are you to tell others that their interpretation of a piece of art is not only wrong, but that they should “stop it” as well? Have you lived their lives to understand how and why the interpret it as they do? It’s called an “interpretation” for a reason.

    Get over yourself; real literature has different meanings to different people, and that’s the beauty of it.

  30. Johanna Wagner January 10, 2016 at 10:03 am - Reply

    Long I stood and went thinking about
    the term “real” and reality and realization
    Imagine there is a choice
    Imagine there is a judge
    Still I stand and still I go on
    making all the differences
    seems to my self
    diverging
    may be some leaves
    will grow over
    this way 2
    and sorry, this is a kind
    of true and serious

  31. Luke January 11, 2016 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    Poems are more than interpretations —the become what we say in them so to say it is incorrectly analyzed would imply that there is only one way to analyze it..which is not the case. With poetry or any type of literature. The road is the road you see….as with all writing it has many roads that people can see and decided upon..critical analysis wouldn’t be critical if something only had one answer or in this case one road. I have no idea what Frost meant as I have never talked to him about it but I am sure he sees more than one thing in his poem and one answer in his poem…

  32. Thorin N. Tatge January 24, 2016 at 6:05 am - Reply

    I don’t understand how the second road was “grassy and wanted wear” but also was “worn […] about the same.” That’s a direct contradiction within three lines. How do you resolve this? Do you interpret the first mention to mean that it -looked- like it wanted wear, but really didn’t upon closer examination/

  33. Clara Sandu January 27, 2016 at 6:57 pm - Reply

    You guys are close, but no cigar

    In Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” the narrator is personifying his own memories, summoning up those of a long-passed crossroads, he sees up the road he didn’t take but only to a point until he sees no more. This is the road “more traveled” because this road is a path wrought by a decision and, in the fullness of time, he has paced it over and over in curious regret, so the inception of the road (the isolated situation that called for a decision) is trodden, however, after a point he cannot see; that’s where the human capacity of adumbration ceases to satisfy our fabricated alternate reality—this notion is owed to our (extensive or subliminal) acknowledgement of the butterfly effect. We can only ponder about the choices we didn’t make up to a point, where the road “bend in the undergrowth,” until the foreseeable effect on our lives becomes obfuscated by the myriad of factors that would also have influenced our plot of our life’s story…had we made that one divergent decision in a parallel universe. Point being, there is no ostensible presage of the rest of that road, and even less so of the roads that diverge from it—and yet this is the road “more traveled” and mused about and worn with recursive thought in the annals of our minds.

    The road less traveled is the one we actually took took because we don’t tend to have recurring thoughts about the choices we did make since we can see, perfectly clearly, the result in hindsight.

    So the apparent acceptance intoned by the last two lines can be interpreted as such: the registration of the idea that we would not wish to take the road more traveled, the road we have thought about shortly after the fact and long thereafter, not because (on a more superficial level) it has made us more individual and nonconformist, taking the road less traveled, but rather because every choice we make—every cross roads we reach—makes “all the difference” in our lives because “way leads into way” and we will perennially relive our crossroads and dream about what may have been, but, given the chance, we would not choose to change our choice because we know not where the road leads, so we accept the choice we have made because it has brought us here today.

    NOTE: The wood is yellow because he is in the autumn of his life; frankly, he is old (“ages and ages hence”) and remembers (after the gradual culmination of wisdom that comes with age) a decision he once found regrettable—one he had internalized and mulled over his entire life, potentially. But now, in retrospect, the detriment of that decision vaguely recalled but is now is felt so indirectly that he would choose his original decision over again knowing the course his life taken in lieu of taking a gamble and treading “the road not taken,” because for all he knows, after the bend in the road there could have been a pack of wolfs waiting for him.

    ~Frost called his poem “The Road Not Taken,” not “The Road Less Travelled”~

    Orrrr, speaking from the “reader-response” school of literary criticism, one could say that everyone’s interpretation is ultimately the truest one in relation to themselves, their nature, and their psyche—either way, I hope we can all agree that Frost was a poetic maestro of rhyme and rhythm.

  34. Roger January 31, 2016 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    Wow Susan, good topic, good subjectivity.
    I think the jokes on us btw re the position frost was in when thus was written. Sounds like when he writes he has already experienced this passing of opportunity, this “let me try to dress this up and wear this ugly outfit”
    , this self deceiving.

    He might have been referring to writing as a profession, one would hope not but with the prose comes loathing as well.

    Truly he was at a well matured age when this was written because he had the self lie down to a science. Ironic that when I read this the 1st time at a slam, I was 17 and I felt I was walking down a road different and exciting and the poem was stimulating and engaging, poking at me to take the one less trodden by, after reading years later I see the dark humor and self loathing.

    Thanks for forcing me to think again!

    Respectfully,

  35. Breanne February 1, 2016 at 9:28 am - Reply

    You all are really sucking the beauty of of poetry. Does the “true” interpretation really matter so much as readers actually reading it and creating their own vision from the words? Good grief.

  36. Ashish Sehgal February 20, 2016 at 2:10 am - Reply

    You have a very interesting take on this poem.

    Specially when you say – “I shall be telling this with a sigh, Somewhere ages and ages hence” means someday, down the road, when I’m old and telling stories about my past, I’ll sigh and say that I took the road less traveled by and that’s what “made all the difference” in how my life turned out

    I would say that what we have here is a perspective. An interpretation. Not a question of right or wrong. An opinion.
    I am also sure that many people who have read this poem have looked into the parts that reflect in their lives, and relate to them (and you).
    Each one of us found what is true for us, in this poem. It is a work of intorespectory art, not an absolute statement

  37. Maurice Horne February 20, 2016 at 2:08 pm - Reply

    My favorite poem as well; however, I disagree with your interpretation. Assuming it is true for a moment, how the words of the poem challenge someone personally can be highly significant. Because of this poem I left a degree in music and psychology and went to law school immediately after military service. The last lines in particular today ring true for me as a retired federal judge. I was in a place where a life-choice was necessary. The poem challenged me. The ‘slightly harder road’ was beckoning. I am indebted to Robert Frost for this and other poems such as “Birches.” Watching a youngster having fun he ended the poem– “one could do worse than be a swinger of birches.” BTW, I never really left music: http://www.mauricehorne.com

    To support your premise, I would like to share the following from an anthology of poems. “Frost said that this poem was not about his own choice of a path in life, but only a way of making fun of his friend, the English poet Edward Thomas, with whom he used to go on botanizing walks during his stay in England (1912-1915). No matter how fine the walk, Thomas was likely to regret they had not taken a different route. The poem can of course mean more to the readers than Frost said he intended it to men.” It did for me in 1963.

  38. Kelly February 22, 2016 at 9:12 am - Reply

    Just one question. If he stood in the crossroads and looked as far as he could see and chose a path how does he know that they were equally same? He could not see past a certain point. So therefore he would not know if they were equal or not!

  39. Shanda March 10, 2016 at 1:09 pm - Reply

    I think this poem, as with most, may speak a little differently to each individual reader. I believe that if the message one takes from it is a positive one, and if it enriches them in some way, even if “misinterpreted”, where’s the harm? I think, perhaps, that might be one of the most beautiful aspects of his work; the many different meanings that can be taken from his art.
    And as far as proper interpretation is concerned, if one must be authorized to have final say, it can only rightfully be Mr. Frost.
    A very interesting discussion on an intriguing topic…

  40. Matthew March 16, 2016 at 3:05 pm - Reply

    Interesting take on the poem. What I find curious is that you assume that the narrator’s life is better because of the choice made. It suggests that nowhere in the piece. Perhaps they are melancholy and are reminiscing on how their life changed for the worse… So while you chastise others for reading into a poem, I feel you have done the same.

  41. Tracy Hulson April 3, 2016 at 5:18 pm - Reply

    My husband’s sister died years ago in college when she was 18 or 19 of age. Their father just passed away and we were going through his stuff to donate to Good Will. Two very old bibles were tossed aside for later. Just today I decided to flip the pages of the one Bible. An old sheet discolored paper was folded between two pages of the Bible. I carefully opened it up and it was from my husbands sister? It read -To Daddy- and the Robert Frosts poem The Road Not Taken. At the end she signed Love, Karen. At the bottom right it read “Good Luck in your Journey”. Her parents had divorced couple of years after her death. Her dad had a hidden a fairs with men and lead another life under the families life which they never knew about. Her parents were married for 25 years. My husband is not home yet but will see the letter when he gets home tonight. The only reason I looked this poem up is because of a girl who I never met and passed many…many years ago.

  42. Millen May 7, 2016 at 12:16 am - Reply

    I have a project for my English based on this poem,but I don’t really know how to show the inspirational meaning for me in a creative way.I was wondering if you can help me.Please and thank you!

    • Susan May 24, 2016 at 9:55 am - Reply

      Millen, how does the poem inspire you? What does it mean to you? Has there ever been a time when you had two equally interesting paths to choose from? I’d approach it from there and see where it leads you.

  43. Anila Zafar May 22, 2016 at 3:08 am - Reply

    can someone help me to understand this poem i really have no idea and cannot understand it . i have to attempt my final exams .and the question will be what is your view about this poem or what is theme of this poem ???

    • Susan May 24, 2016 at 9:57 am - Reply

      Anila, what does the meaning mean to you? Obviously, I can’t give you the answers to the question – poetry is deeply personal, and if you read the comments, you can see that everyone has their own interpretation of the poem. Sort through the article and comments, read the poem again, and ask yourself, “What does this mean to me? What do I think about it?”

  44. Khoa Dang May 30, 2016 at 1:54 am - Reply

    Hi Susan,
    I’m concerning of this great poem. As a Vietnamese student Faculty of English Linguistics and Literature,I have a big question for this. In 1961, Frost said that this poem is ” a tricky poem, very tricky poem “. Do you think so ? Why?
    I’m stuck with this problem.

    • Susan June 8, 2016 at 4:49 pm - Reply

      Hi Khoa,
      Frost talked a lot about the poem after it was written. I’m not sure we can know for sure what he meant about it being a tricky poem, but I suspect it was related to the fact that he perceived that people took the poem too seriously and didn’t realize the “hidden” meaning, that the two roads are the same, but in retrospect are perceived as completely different.

      I hope this helps you!

      Susan

  45. Tori Balsom July 12, 2016 at 9:13 am - Reply

    I had the same thought as you when I first memorized the poem in grade 6. “had worn them really about the same…” My grade 6 teacher, Mr. White, told me I was wrong and gave me a B. I’ve been working with this poem ever since. Recently, I heard a recording of Robert Frost reading the poem and at the end he says “this is an easy poem”. Which, for me, gives the clue that it isn’t. Or maybe it is deceptively simple: pick a road… there is no right or wrong…and having to choose is hard… you cannot go back. I remember my step father reading this poem to me in the voice of Robert Frost. He heard the poet read the poem while he was studying at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. When I hear the poem I also think of him. My husband was given a compass with the poem on it. The poem has been altered, it’s not all there. The compass itself doesn’t work well, but it is an idea. How do we find our way? My husband says I see meanings in the poem that aren’t really there, or were never intended. I don’t know about original intention – who can know the mind of a poet? I don’t know how much the original intention matters. I see meaning. My interpretation is along the lines of yours. But I don’t know if there is a “wrong” way to interpret a poem. Otherwise, aren’t we being like Mr. White and telling people what to hear. There is no one right path after all.

  46. adam z July 15, 2016 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Seems like the interpretation of the poem comes down to the meaning of the world DIVERGE. Life is full of choices, they are everywhere. But sometimes, bigger than daily decisions, we have major life choices which take us completely off of our current path. In essence all choices create a new trajectory but in the case to-diverge (to depart from current path for something life-altering, such as leaving a significant other, faith conversion, etc) which require a clear choice. This narrator is not making a mundane choice. It’s not as if any two choices have ever appeared equal. He is fundamentally shifting his life with lucidity. When he says the paths appear the same, he simply is admitting his inability to predict the outcome and acknowledges his right to react to it however he chooses and to tell his story how he wants. Thank you Susan but I think we can all interpret words how choose, considering words are grossly oversized boxes for thoughts and ideas. Words may convey basic meaning but as a language expert you must acknowledge the dire lack of true communication available in simply reading and writing.

  47. Oregonwheel August 30, 2016 at 10:33 am - Reply

    This is a great interpretation. I’m at a point like this. I think I’d like to take the one where I could have more cool things to look back on.

  48. jim September 4, 2016 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    A diamond has many facets as does any art. The light changes as the eye changes. So too does our understanding when looking through more mature eyes.
    The Yellow wood is Fall or Autumn. As I am heading into my winter I too sigh remember that spring day of my youth when I had to make a decision about going to war, or not. Most think of only four paths, I chose a fifth path the effects have lasted a life time. Most travel one of the four but the fifth is less chosen. As I visit with those, younger than I who are in their spring, I offer another choice for their consideration. We might consider this poem not finished as Emmerson might have done.
    “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

  49. Mike September 10, 2016 at 11:07 am - Reply

    I have no idea what Frost intended except to provoke a response from the reader by presenting a beautifully crafted piece of written art. Great art engages both the creator and the consumer with a pinch of ambiguity to foster that engagement. If some who consume this art choose to perceive it as idolizing individuality and some perceive it as offering a story about choice and wry reflection they can both be “right” because I believe art ultimately occurs at the intersection of the expression and the interpretation. Great poets are artists. Most writing is not art. If he had intended a clear meaning he would have written it plainly.

  50. Z November 22, 2016 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    I don’t know about anyone, but Now that I’m a middle age man rereading this poem made so much sense. Though, I feel so much sad while reading it. Such a beautiful poem.

  51. Joe December 16, 2016 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    You are dead on. The poem is called the “Road NOT taken”, not the “Road Less Traveled”.

  52. jessie smith January 17, 2017 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    You seem pretty tense that people are interpreting something in their own way. If you’re such a frost fan why don’t you accept that the reason Frost wrote it this way is that people can interpret it any way they want? Robert Frost was a modernist writer and that’s what a lot of modernist writers did. They would sometimes make their stories in a way that would make the readers interpret each part differently. That’s what makes people talk. So get over the fact that people interpret it any way they want. You can look at it this way and someone else can look at it another way. That’s what you typically do when it comes to art.

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 8:27 pm - Reply

      LOL, but Jessie, if I hadn’t taken such a strong stance, would we have had this amazing conversation?

  53. Mike February 25, 2017 at 5:30 am - Reply

    My English prof offered the (to me pretty compelling) interpretation that Frost was talking about a choice between prose and poetry as his life’s mission. He eventually went with poetry, “having perhaps the better claim, Because it was grassy and wanted wear”, meaning the mainstream NOW was prose, “Though as for that the passing there; Had worn them really about the same,” meaning that over the whole arc of literature, poetry and prose must be considered equally important.

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      Mike, that IS an interesting interpretation.

  54. Dylan Odhner February 25, 2017 at 3:21 pm - Reply

    Exactly! Imagine talking to some newlyweds who dated in high school, broke up, and then got back together in college. They will mythologize their past to so that they can say “deep down, I always knew we were destined to be together”.

    If, 10 years later, they are getting divorced, they’re very apt to say: “Deep down, I always knew there was a problem… we are just too different”.

    That is a complex human tendency, and that is what Frost is referring to.

  55. Steve Hards February 27, 2017 at 9:15 pm - Reply

    Oooo Susan, you certainly stirred up a hornets’ nest here, didn’t you! But Maurice Horne’s anecdote about Frost and Edward Thomas (in his comment February 20, 2016 at 2:08 pm) completely bears out your interpretation: “No matter how fine the walk, Thomas was likely to regret they had not taken a different route.”

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      Right? And look at the phenomenal discourse on poetry that’s happened! I love it!!

  56. Nicole April 18, 2017 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    The insistence by many here that we are all allowed our own unique interpretations of literature that should be valued equally reminds me of high school English students who think “there’s no such thing as a right answer in English class.” While it may be perfectly correct to assume that two different individuals might have different interpretations of a text that are both fully supported and well-reasoned, it is not the same as every interpretation being equally valid. While there may not be a single right answer to the question of the final two lines, that does not mean that there aren’t a whole lot of totally invalid answers out there.

    Any interpretation that has to ignore lines of the poem to work, isn’t a valid interpretation. People fighting tooth and nail to say that this is a poem about individuality must ignore phrases such as “about the same,” “equally lay,” and “just as fair.” The poem is full of contradictions. An interpretation that doesn’t account for those contradictions, is wrong, no matter how much an individual might want it to mean something else. Interpretations of the last two lines that relate to individuality only work when those lines are taken out of context. The speaker did NOT take the road “less traveled by.” This is clear because they had been worn “really about the same.” So, yes, it is wrong to say that this poem is an encouragement to take the road “less traveled by,” though I can see many opportunities for different interpretations of the poem as long as they include the very obvious fact that the speaker is not telling himself the truth by the end of the poem.

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 8:09 pm - Reply

      I like you, Nicole. 😀

  57. Jim McDonald May 1, 2017 at 10:29 am - Reply

    To everyone hating on Susan for her tone and language in this post, please realize that there are 2 ways to breakdown art. First, is the emotional feeling you take from a piece of art, be that painting, poetry or even song. No one is denying your feelings that piece of art might conjure. But that is very different than the second, which is the breakdown of the art under critical thought.

    You are confusing your feelings with analyses. In middle school, I had a teacher who loved Frost and romanticized his poems. In college, I had a professor who loved Frost too, but he made us go much deeper into the artistic choices Frost made, not just in this poem, but throughout his body of work. Was my middle school teacher wrong in her feelings? No. Was she wrong in her scholarly interpretation? Yes.

    Here’s another example, Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight,” is probably one of the most chosen songs for weddings, right? Beautiful song. When a newlywed couple dances to it and people are crying does it matter that the song is completely inappropriate in that setting? No. Does it matter that Clapton wrote the entire thing sarcastically? Not really, but if you know the history of the song, had studied the lyrics and know what the song is actually about it takes something away from the moment for me, at least.

    It is the same when I hear a Valedictorian stand in front of their academic class and use the phrase, “the road less traveled” to inspire their future classmates to make hard choices. Does it work, sure, but is it the correct use of the poem in that setting? No, it is not. This poem as has been rightly dissected to be about “regret”, “rationalizing our past” and “justifying our choices”, it is NOT about choosing the road that fewer people have the guts to walk down so that they can be more successful in their lives. I’m sorry, it is not. That is the scholarly analysis of this poem, not just by Susan, but by hundreds of poets, writers, and critics. But, hey, “you look wonderful tonight.” 🙂

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 7:56 pm - Reply

      Jim, thank you for taking the time to write this comment!

  58. Chris May 13, 2017 at 2:52 am - Reply

    Perhaps this poem has more meaning at 47 than it would have done at 12. For me, as for several others, the “sigh” is important – it is “the road NOT travelled by” that we wonder about even when we are completely happy with (most) of the decisions we’ve taken. [SIGH] and [WISTFUL SMILE]

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 7:50 pm - Reply

      Chris, YES. At 45, I feel exactly the same. 🙂

  59. Logan June 3, 2017 at 2:59 am - Reply

    I truly believe that the reader is free to interpret what is written. The writer knows what he or she is putting out there. But, kudos for your little “me, me, me” advertisem… sorry, interpretation

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 7:49 pm - Reply

      LOL, thank you for your comment, Logan.

  60. A Teacher June 10, 2017 at 5:54 am - Reply

    Unbelievable that someone would be so dead set on his/her interpretation of the meaning of this poem and have the nerve to tell people their interpretation is wrong. In fact, you are saying that the poet (the one you claim to respect so much) is wrong. As it has been pointed out correctly, Robert Frost had discussed at length why he wrote this poem and he called it “misunderstood”. The friend he wrote it for told Frost that it would never be read the way Frost intended as it had been taken very seriously by this friend. In fact, his poet friend, having somewhat of an existential crisis after reading the poem, reenlisted in the service, entered the war and was killed two months later. Susan, if you are such a Frost aficionado, why do you not know this; moreover, how is it that each reader is not entitled to be moved by this work in his/her own way? You were so moved, you had to ridicule anyone who had “wrongly” interpreted the poem. There are no right or wrong answers in poetry. In claiming to have them, you are removing something beautiful and unique from the poets and their readers.

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 7:47 pm - Reply

      Hi A Teacher, thank you for your comment! As a teacher, you must know that it takes a lot to get folks to think deeply about poetry. Oftentimes, the best way to get people engaged in the debate and discourse is to take a stance. I agree – there are no right or wrong answers in poetry. I also think that in generating such a lively and long-lasting discourse about poetry, it’s been demonstrated clearly that I haven’t taken anything away by stating my opinion. 🙂

  61. Kisanet June 17, 2017 at 7:53 am - Reply

    Hey susan I’am in year 9 I’am 14years old and I will be doing an exam on this poet and ‘My father thought it’ as a teenager I kind of didn’t get this poem but when I read what it ment I got it , how you wrote it is so clear your a better teacher than my teacher you should teach in a school with all that talent your a role modle to me now. Thaks for your help!!!

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 7:44 pm - Reply

      Hi Kisanet, I hope your exam went well. Thank you for reading my post!

  62. Susan June 23, 2017 at 11:19 am - Reply

    Don’t you think art is for everyone to interpret for themselves?

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 7:43 pm - Reply

      Yes! (great name, btw!) 😉

  63. John Hodson June 28, 2017 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    When I read this poem I always feel a fraud as I am not the first person narrator but merely someone reading someone else’s words. Any path I might be travelling has nothing to do with the choices made by the poetic voice, which I have always assumed is someone far more creative than myself. I would also add that the narrator is uncertain also: the paths are just as fair, but then one is grassy and not worn and then it is worn and then they are equally well used. A great poem even if you disregard any of the potential meanings attributed to it.

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 7:43 pm - Reply

      And a great comment. Thank you, John!

  64. Amrit July 3, 2017 at 10:57 am - Reply

    Susan, it’s nice that you shared your interpretation with everyone. But then everyone has different perceptions and you just cannot go on telling them that their interpretation or what they understood from a poem is incorrect. Poetry is a thing that can be understood by people in 1000 different ways and none of them is wrong.

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 7:41 pm - Reply

      But Amrit, look at the wonderful comments this post has generated – so many people have such different viewpoints and ideas about what this poem could mean. If I hadn’t been such a big know-it-all and posted this piece, we’d never have heard many of these diverse voices!

  65. Helene July 14, 2017 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    So, Susan your interpretation is somewhat cynical. Your saying nobody is happy with their life or decisions and consequently, when we are old we will all just lie to ourselves. Whoa, way to ruin Frost or poetry in general. I agree with “teacher”. Why can’t we just see it how we want and enjoy it that way? I agree all of us do rationalize, but that’s part of being human. I like to think of it as maybe not having taken the better road, but the higher road, so to speak. Also, why do you feel it necessary to denigrate everyone who doesn’t see it the way you do?

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      You’re absolutely welcome to see the poem how you want. I’m just stating my understanding of it.

  66. ofcmmorrison1971@gmail.com July 25, 2017 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    I believe Mr. Frost who wrote the poem shall have the last word on his meaning of his poem my dear. You just might be surprised.

  67. pennyb August 9, 2017 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    Interpretation and meaning in art and literature are not like mathematics, where there is a single correct answer. The creator’s INTENTION is not the only correct answer. If there are “laws” to interpretation, they are that interpreted meaning must be supported by the text itself. If this can be done, the observer is not “imposing” their own meaning on the work, but revealing it as a dynamic, living thing that interacts with another mind. This irritated bashing of interpretations that bring personal experience to the process is puzzling..That is what art is. It is not static and it is not limited to the intention of the artist. If readers reach a different conclusion than Frost’s intention, that is not their failure. Art is not a thing, It is an exchange. Art must be registered to mean anything.

    • Susan September 21, 2017 at 7:31 pm - Reply

      I love this comment, Penny! You make an excellent point.

  68. Geoff August 11, 2017 at 7:28 pm - Reply

    I once wrote a short piece on this same subject and agree with much of what you say. Most people who quote it quote only the last two lines, and usually they seem to imply that there is some special virtue about taking the road less travelled. Then the last line comes off as a sort of smugness about that choice. To my way of thinking, Frost points out (at a minimum) that choices make a difference to where you end up. The title and the sigh perhaps even indicate a measure of regret or wistfulness. At any rate, whenever someone quotes it as I outlined above discussion ensues.

  69. Robert C. Brown August 18, 2017 at 7:53 am - Reply

    Susan: Years ago, I did go back and take the other road by finding and marrying my high school sweetheart. It was a terribly difficult decision that involved a divorce from the first road after 42 years, most of them quite happy and productive of four wonderful children. But now at fifteen years along the second road, I rejoice in having made that decision, even though my wonderful love is now slowly dying, day by day, from Alzheimer’s Disease. I love her more than ever.

    Some years ago I wrote and inserted a personal penultimate verse to The Road Not Taken, re-titling the poem The Road Retaken:

    But Fate had other plans for me;
    One day the first road reappeared
    And beckoned that I come and see
    What lay around that bend for me;
    I went, and saw, and disappeared.

    Bob Brown, Tallahassee

  70. Robert C. Brown August 18, 2017 at 7:57 am - Reply

    Susan: I neglected to tell you that I also re-wrote the last stanza:

    I shall be telling this with a sigh,
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
    Retook the road I’d long passed by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    Bob

  71. Susan September 21, 2017 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Bob, that’s fantastic!!

  72. Cliff September 29, 2017 at 11:55 am - Reply

    Hi Susan –
    I ran across this entry in your blog quite by random and agree with your interpretation with one notable exception.

    My exception is that the roads were, in fact, not equally traveled. [“…really about the same.”]. He could have said, “…really exactly the same.” but he didn’t. We see that he was looking for a reason to choose between two unknowns. One path appeared slightly less traveled and – perhaps just for his own interest’s sake or maybe for rebellious reasons – he used that minor difference to make his choice. This is significant…the decision mattered to him. He cared, if only at that moment. For whatever reason, he didn’t want to go down the more popular path. In fact, the very title of the poem tells us that he did indeed identify a difference, albeit slight. And what else could he have based the decision on? He didn’t know the lengths of the roads or their destinations. Only the apparent popularities of the roads.

    So his was a conscious choice based on something he cared about (taking life’s less traveled paths). Let’s talk about the complete antithesis of that….his ‘big picture’ situation. In reality, assuming he didn’t already know where the roads would ultimately lead, or that they didn’t meet up again 500 yards ahead, the traveler would have had to be in a somewhat careLESS state of mind: the ultimate destinations were not important to him at that moment. Frost’s character didn’t know where either road would lead, and either outcome was ok. That’s either a very liberating feeling, or one of despondency, depending on his state of mind.

    Finally, for readers adding their own stanzas to a Robert Frost poem. I’m glad it’s meaningful to you, but this is sort of like adding a little eye-shadow to the Mona Lisa. One should resist the urge.

    • Susan October 2, 2017 at 11:56 am - Reply

      Hi Cliff, Thank you for your thoughtful comment! You’re right, “really about the same” isn’t the same as “exactly the same,” and yet, poetically speaking, I don’t think Frost would’ve used the latter phrasing. I do think that perhaps he DID think they were pretty much the same – maybe one was, say, a little more worn there than here, and the other was a little more worn there than here, but essentially, I think they were the same. Approximately. 😉 Hard to say, right?

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