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The Road Not Taken: A Summary

The Road Not Taken, a lyric, was inspired from the ramblings Robert Frost took with his friend, Edward Thomas while staying in Great Britain from 1912 to 1915. Edward Thomas loved exploring lanes and forests with Frost and frequently, after returning from such walks expressed his desire of taking an alternative trail. The poem records the musings of Thomas, but beneath a simple descriptive narration, it discusses an issue of utmost seriousness – the relevance of choices in life. The theme and analysis of the poem can further help to understand it.

Stanza Wise Summary

Stanza 1

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;

Summary: The poem commences with a particular situation – the poet, standing before two divergent roads, “in a yellow wood” (suggesting autumn), seems confused regarding which path to take, and distinctly feels “sorry” for not being able to “travel both.” He, nonetheless performs an expected task ‑ strains his eyes as far as he can, to decipher where the roads finally go “in the undergrowth.”

Stanza 2

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,

Summary: The poet finally resolves to take “the other” path and considering its “grassy” and less worn out look (wanted wear), he contends that it is perhaps “the better claim.”  However, his dilemma erupts again as he analyses the other road to appears as untrodden as the one he has taken. So he states that “the passing there,” (meaning people who have trampled upon it), have worn it, much like the other one.

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.

Summary: In the third stanza, the poet seems to present a new idea – the paths lie covered by leaves, none of which has been turned “black” by steps. And having taken the grassy road, he keeps the “first one for another day!” However, this future rumination also encompasses a big uncertainty; “I doubted if I should ever come back” reflects the poet’s philosophical conjectures about certain certainties in life – the possibility of never having a chance to try out the path, one has discarded.

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.

Summary: The fourth stanza takes a leap forward in future; it points at a period ahead, “Somewhere ages and ages hence,” when he would sit back and form an idea about the decision he has taken. Then he would, he states, tell “this with a sigh” how having taken the road, “less traveled by” has caused “all the difference.” The poet leaves the reader to imagine whether the “sigh” is an outcome of satisfaction of a life well spent or repentance of unfulfilled expectations. Further, it is also not certain what “difference” constitutes in his life.

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