Joyce Wu 

ENG 1121

Prof Scan.

April 19, 2020


The Road Not Taken Explication 


In the poem “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost, he addresses the concept of indecisiveness. We make choices every day from as little as what to eat to something big like a career or internship. Sometimes, we may be placed in a position to choose life or death. Making the right decision is hard for all individuals, mainly the dawdling ones who believe in procrastination. The speaker seems to want the reader to verify that if there’s a way “in” there would be a way “out”. In the eyes of the traveler, their thoughts are extremely impacted by the past and being stuck in the middle of the wood, they know that they can only choose one route. As in the first stanza, lines one and five, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” and “To where it bent in the undergrowth” reveal a strong emotion of pressure, regret, and fear that indicates the purpose of life. These two lines contain imagery, symbolism, metaphor, denotation, connotation, and irony. While the poem has numerous interpretations, I think it’s the beauty in life that comes within the hardships of an individual. 

In the first stanza of line one, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” the speaker right away gives off an illustration of the paths being divided into two and is yellow rather than typical green. By using imagery, the setting and description convey the intensity of no guidance, which makes the traveler analyze the surroundings carefully. Besides, the road is a symbolism of life. Just like what people say you never know where you can end up in life. Perhaps, the speaker is suggesting a convenient way for the burden to be lifted. Or maybe judging by appearance. The two roads represent the importance of an outcome. A very unique way of making this poem interesting was a metaphor twist, Frost compares himself or the speaker as a traveler. The split roads metaphorically have consequences that could be pleasant or not. 

The next line, “To where it bent in the undergrowth,” is when the speaker wants to go both ways and still can’t let go of that idea. The curiosity of the traveler decided to explore. The first step was glancing down at one of the roads. However, the traveler could only see up to a certain point and not furthermore. From the observation, the speaker is realizing their past mistakes. Or maybe thinking of a way to prevent having another failure. For all we know, we can feel the traveler’s struggles and fear by the diction implied.

These two lines have many denotations and connotations hidden. The word “road” means a route leading from one place to the next that may or may not use transportations. This reminds me of people who love to be on the go. As for the connotation, it’s the feeling of being overwhelmed with choices to make. With the word “two” in front of roads, it denotes the quantity of a duplet and is bigger than the sum of one. When it connotes, this could mean the outcome of life can be “even” or “fair”. When the words combine, “two roads” gives a feeling of encouragement to life and battle through the uneasy. The next pair of words “yellow woods” offers some insight into the poem. The word “yellow wood” has many possible meanings to it like; any various trees having yellowish wood or yielding a yellow extract or the expansion of trees. The season is likely to be Autumn because it reminds me of the time I’ve seen American elm trees and sugar maple trees. Several ways to explicate this further is separating yellow away from wood. The color “yellow” gives an emotion of happiness and warmth. It also suggests that time is precious and don’t take it for granted. The word “undergrowth” is too cryptic and needs some unfolding. It means plants growing in dense places or something beneath the ground. However, the connotation of undergrowth is elucidated as its inability for the traveler to see the future. Being in the woods must feel like a maze, you can’t see the outside until you find the exit. 

The two lines merge creates a significant message. It gives the reader a better understanding that judgments are not going to help you find the answer. The sense of confusion will only lead to harsh and negative energy. Because of the contradiction of choosing between two roads that are detailed as “both equally worn”. The traveler decided to travel to the one that seems “less” traveled. This technique is called Irony. It was used to portray the situation of how his choices didn’t match up. Though, we can say this changes the traveler’s life in some way. Whether it’s for the better or worse. Who knows?

I love that there are endless ways and meanings people can take from this poem. Nevertheless, I truly believe that to make the right decisions, everyone has to go through a misfortunate time in life (failures and regrets) to know their worth.


Word Count: 859