The Road Not Taken
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
5 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
10 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,
15 I doubted if I should ever come back.
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,
20 And that has made all the difference.
1. Are this speaker’s feelings about the choices he’s made in life familiar to you?
2. Instead of roads through a garden or a wide-open plain, why do you think the poet writes about roads that go through a wood? (Think about what woods usually symbolizes, or stands for, as in the statement “We’re not out of the woods yet.”)
3. What do you think the speaker means when he says that he “kept” the first road for another day? How do we know that he realizes his choice of paths is utterly final?
4. Why do you think the speaker’s choice “has made all the difference”?
5. How does Frost’s speaker contradict himself in lines 8 through 10? In what other ways does this speaker ironically contradict himself?
6. Some adjectives that describe tone are listed below. Which adjectives would you choose to describe the tone of this poem? What words, phrases, or lines in the poem make you feel this tone?
Angry, awed, bitter, cynical, fearful, hopeful, ironic, playful, positive, puzzled, regretful, sad.
Connecting with the Text
7. What might happen if someone chooses a “less traveled” road? Do you know people who have made choices like this—and people who have chosen well-traveled roads? What kinds of lives did they have?
8. Do you think people ever have a chance to go back and try another road? Talk about your responses. What decisions could you have made since you got up this morning that might have changed the course of your life? Are any life decisions harder to alter or reverse than others?
Challenging the Text
9. Think about your responses to Frost’s letter “Crossing Paths” (see
below). What questions would you ask him if you could?
Plymouth, New Hampshire
10 February 1912
Dear Miss Ward:
. . . Two lonely crossroads that themselves cross each other I have walked several times this winter without meeting or overtaking so much as a single person on foot or on runners. The practically unbroken condition of both for several days after a snow or a blow proves that neither is much traveled. Judge then how surprised I was the other evening as I came down one to see a man, who to my own unfamiliar eyes and in the dusk looked for all the world like myself, coming down the other, his approach to the point where our paths must intersect being so timed that unless one of us pulled up we must inevitably collide. I felt as if I was going to meet my own image in a slanting mirror. Or say I felt as we slowly converged on the same point with the same noiseless yet laborious strides as if we were two images about to float together with the uncrossing of someone’s eyes. I verily expected to take up or absorb this other self and feel the stronger by the addition for the three-mile journey home. But I didn’t go forward to the touch. I stood still in wonderment and let him pass by; and that, too, with the fatal omission of not trying to find out by a comparison of lives and immediate and remote interests what could have brought us by crossing paths to the same point in the wilderness at the same moment of nightfall. Some purpose I doubt not, if we could but have made it out. I like a coincidence almost as well as an incongruity. . . .
Back to the Table of Contents