The Road Not Taken: Summary & Theme

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next:

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Poem Summary
  • 1:45 Theme
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Francesca Marinaro

Francesca M. Marinaro has a PhD in English from the University of Florida and has been teaching English composition and Literature since 2007.

Expert Contributor
Cailin Roles

Cailin received her MA in English specializing in Cultural Studies from Kansas State University. She has two years of teaching and tutoring experience at the university level.

'The Road Not Taken' by Robert Frost is a well-known poem about the journey of life. This lesson will cover a brief summary of the poem, analyze its major theme, and test your knowledge with a quick quiz.

Poem Summary

Have you ever found yourself caught between a rock and a hard place, trying to make a difficult decision? Maybe you've had to choose between two equally desirable things, like following a career path to become an astronaut or a doctor. You may have considered the different paths of study or activity each choice would lead you down. We've all been faced with challenging decisions in our lives, and sometimes the difficulty of making those decisions arises from the fear of not knowing if what we choose is right, or what will happen as a result of our choice.

Well, the famous American poet, Robert Frost, once wrote a poem that describes this feeling exactly. 'The Road Not Taken', first published in 1916, is perhaps Frost's most famous poem. The final lines in particular, 'Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I - I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference', are often quoted and referred to as inspirational words that challenge us to overcome obstacles in life.

The poem describes someone standing at a fork, or turning point, in a road in the woods, trying to decide which path he's going to take. He looks down one road as far as he can see, and after thinking for another minute, decides to take the other one because it looks like nobody's been that way yet, and he's curious about where it leads.

He thinks maybe he might come back another day and try out the other path but he has a feeling that the road he's chosen will lead him to new places and discoveries, and he probably won't be back. He thinks wistfully about that road, the road not taken, and where he might have wound up if he'd gone that way instead. Part of him regrets his decision, but he also realizes that the things he's seen and the places he's gone because of the direction he chose has made him who he is.

The Poem's Theme

'The Road Not Taken' is more than a poem about someone trying to decide which road he's going to take on a stroll through the woods. It's actually a poem about the journey of life. The two roads diverged in a yellow wood symbolize a person's life. The narrator's choice about which road to take represents the different decisions we sometimes have to make and how those decisions will affect the future. Think of the expression, 'down the road', that we often use to describe something that might happen months or even years from now, and you'll see how Frost is making the connection between life and traveling.

Frost captures the uncertainty about making decisions and our natural desire to know what will happen as a result of the decisions we make in the first stanza of the poem:

'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'

Here, Frost uses the bend in the road as a metaphor for what the narrator wishes he could see but ultimately can't make out in the undergrowth. The narrator eventually decides to take the other road because it really doesn't matter; whichever path he chooses, he has no way of knowing where he's going to end up.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Additional Activities

Discussion Questions about 'The Road Not Taken'

In this lesson, you learned about Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken." The following discussion questions ask you to reflect on the imagery and themes of the poem.

Discussion Question 1

"The Road Not Taken" describes a decision the narrator must make between two roads that represent two life choices. Think about a time when you had to make a difficult choice between two options. How did you make your decision? Do you agree with the narrator that your decision "made all the difference"? Do you wonder what might have happened if you chose differently?

Discussion Question 2

The title of the poem is "The Road Not Taken," not "The Road Taken." Why do you think Frost chose to highlight the path the narrator did not choose? What lines or language in the poem might help you determine the narrator's feelings about their choice?

Discussion Question 3

Why do you think Frost used two roads as a metaphor for a choice? What does he mean when he says one of the roads was "grassy and wanted wear"?

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account