The Choices We Must Make
“The Road Not Taken” and “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost both portray situations where a choice must be made. In both poems the narrator is in a predicament and must make a choice of which path to follow in life. Frost uses symbolism of a road to illustrate the fact that man will never know what could have been or what opportunities were lost with the choice that was made. In “The Road not Taken” the speaker comes across a fork in the road. Each path is a metaphor for a choice in life. He feels strongly that whatever road he takes will be for good and he must choose wisely in order to come up with the best choice so he does not end up regretting it yet the poems hint at the inevitable regret that follows choice. “Frost calls attention only to the role of human choice. A second target was the notion that “whatever choice we make, we make at our peril.”(Montiero 11) After giving it proper thought the speaker chooses to follow the road “less traveled.”(Frost 19) “Then one notices how insistent the speaker is on admitting, at the time of his choice, that the two roads were in appearance “really about the same.”(Pritchard 9) “The Road not Taken” signifies a difficult choice in a person’s life that could offer the easy or hard way out. There is no assurance to what the path you chose to take leads, but as people, we have to take risks and choose because deciding is the first step of either heading into success or failure in life. At the end of the poem, the speaker says, “that has made all the difference,” which demonstrates that if we choose the more difficult “road” we might receive what we sought after. (Frost 20) “A poem rather which announced itself to be ‘about’ important issues in life: about the nature of choice, of decision, of how to go in one direction rather than another and how to feel about the direction you took and didn’t take.”(Pritchard 4) It is about how the choice came about and what your attitude toward the outcome was. By deciding to travel the harder path, the speaker strays away from the popular opinion as represented by the other road. The poem’s importance lies in the decision made by the speaker, and the act of choosing the harder path represents that he is always moving forward; never stopping. Like “The Road not Taken,” in “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” the speaker is faced with a big life decision. He must choose between isolation and obligation. “But it is only by setting out, by working our way well into the wood, that we begin to understand the meaning of the choices we make and the character of the self that is making them; in fact, only then can we properly understand our actions as choices.” (Richardson 2) This poem might suggest that stopping in the woods on a snowy evening would allow the speaker to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. When the speaker reaches the woods, he finds a world offering perfect, quiet isolation existing side by side with another world, a world of people and obligations. The speaker wrestles with his choice: he considers whether he should stay in the woods or not. “His house is in the village though; he will not see me stopping here to watch the woods fill up with snow.” (Frost 2) The speaker understands that his house and obligations are located in the village and he knows he must attend to his obligations; so no one will see him stopping in the woods to watch them fill up with snow. His horse is his connection to civilization and life. When the horse shakes its bells it is signaling that the speaker should return to the city. “Having paid tribute to the dangerous seductiveness of the woods, the narrator seems to be trying to shake himself back into commonsense reality by invoking his ‘promises’ or mundane responsibilities.” (Gray 3) The speaker has promises to keep, and must connect to life and decides to journey on. The social responsibility proves stronger than that of the isolated woods....
Cited: 1. Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken.” Poetry X. Ed. Jough Dempsey. 2003.
2. Frost, Robert. “Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening.” Poetry X. Ed. Jough Dempsey. 2003.
3. The UP of Kentucky. Frost and the New England Renaissance. Lexington, KY: The University Press of Kentucky, 1988. Copyright © 1988
4. Lentricchia, Frank. Modernist Quartet. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995: 71-74.
5. Longman Group UK Limited. American Poetry of the Twentieth Century. Copyright © 1990
6. Meyers, Jeffrey. Robert Frost: A Biography. Copyright © 1996
7. The University of Michigan. Robert Frost and the Challenge of Darwin. Copyright © 1997
8. Pritchard, William. A Literary Life Reconsidered. Copyright © 1984
9. "From Woods to Stars: A Pattern of Imagery in Robert Frost’s Poetry." South Atlantic Quarterly. Winter 1959.
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