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The Road Not Taken: Symbolism & Analysis

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  • 0:01 Symbolism in The Road…
  • 0:33 Two Roads Diverged in…
  • 1:34 Because It Was Grassy…
  • 2:21 I Doubted If I Should…
  • 2:50 I Shall Be Telling…
  • 3:33 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Joshua Wimmer

Joshua holds a master's degree in Latin and has taught a variety of Classical literature and language courses.

'Two roads diverged in a wood,' and one of them will bring you to this lesson. Here, we'll explore the symbolism in 'The Road Not Taken.' Let's analyze one of Robert Frost's most notable works, then test your understanding through a short quiz.

Decisions, Decisions: Symbolism in Robert Frost's 'The Road Not Taken'

What college is best for me? What career should I pursue? Where should I live? Ultimately, one of Robert Frost's most cherished poems is representative of the journey of life and the many decisions like these we make along the way.

Robert Frost, who lived from 1874-1963, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet and playwright, who published his famous poem, 'The Road Not Taken', in 1916. Let's take a look at some of the symbolism in 'The Road Not Taken' to see how the poet uses it to concisely summarize the course of a human life.

'Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood'

The line 'Two roads diverged in a yellow wood' refers to the divergent paths the solitary narrator encounters on his autumnal journey, which represent the difficult choices we must often make alone. As the weather cools, you would find few others traveling in an autumn wood, highlighting the loneliness of the narrator in his decision.

As when the narrator laments that he is 'sorry I could not travel both/and be one traveler,' we sometimes might regret our personal limitations and wish we could simply feast on the variety of life. Nevertheless, the vast majority of us, who haven't the means to change our education, vocation, or location on a whim, must make decisions as we travel on this journey called 'Life.' And because so many of us must come to this point, Frost characterizes the road leading to the narrator's decision as equally worn.

'Because It Was Grassy and Wanted Wear'

The line 'Because it was grassy and wanted wear' refers to the path the narrator eventually chooses. Not even fast-growing grass has the time to take root on a frequently traveled path. But a less frequently traveled path is overgrown from lack of use, representing a desire for individuality and adventure and a revolt against the more conventional, much-traveled road.

When we arrive at these crucially decisive moments, we often feel the urge to express a personal statement and pursue unexpected adventures. While 'adventure' might mean a lot of different things to various people, many of the adventures we embark on in our lives only lead in one direction, meaning we don't get to come back and choose again.

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