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The Symbolic Meaning in "The Road Not Traveled"

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Poetry Essay
ENGL 102: Literature and Composition

Feb. 20, 2012
The Symbolic Meaning of “The Road Not Taken”
Thesis Statement: The poem provides the reader with symbolic meaning; coaxing the reader to consider the idea there are choices to be made, and based on the verdict determines what our future holds. I. Introduction a. Thesis b. Connection Sentence II. Title c. Key to interpretation d. How the symbolism could be different if the name was changed III. Theme e. Choices f. Individualism IV. Setting g. ? h. ? V. Conclusion Running head: THE SYMBOLIC MEANING OF “THE ROAD NOT TAKEN”

The Symbolic Meaning of “The Road Not Taken Gabrielle Brown Liberty University

Abstract

The Symbolic Meaning of “The Road Not Taken” The poem, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, provides the reader with symbolic meaning; coaxing the reader to consider the idea there are choices to be made, and based on the verdict determines what the future holds. In order for the reader to gain a full understanding of the symbolic meaning of the poem it is vital for the reader to grasp the importance of the title, themes, and setting. The title of Robert Frost poem, “The Road Not Taken” is vital to the reader in their interpretation of the message. If the title had been changed to “The Road Never Traveled” or “The Road Less Traveled,” it could have changed the point that Frost was trying to get across and that was how the choices that we make in life can be rather difficult at times, but one must chose even if they do not know what the end result is going to be. When changing the title to “The Road Never Traveled” then that would persuade the reader to believe that the narrator’s never had to struggle with the problem of choice and that his future was already planned out for him. However, if the title was changed to “The Road Less Traveled” it might have lead the reader to consider the idea of a Christian twist to the story such as the paths represent salvation and damnation or conformity to worldly ways. In the end by changing the title it could change the whole meaning of the poem, as well as the themes and symbolic meaning. There are two key themes in this poem one is choice and the other is individualism verses conformity. Both themes can be seen at the divide in the path. There is only one of the traveler and two paths leading him to make a choice on which direction he wants to go. That is where the theme of choice appears, but then he goes into detail about the way each path presents itself to him. He starts out by saying: “And looked down one as far as I could To where it bent in the undergrowth; Then took the other 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, And both that morning equally lay In leaves no step had trodden black.” (Frost, Lines 4-11) Through this description the reader can see that he is debating with himself on which path is the right one. He can take the one that looked like it had been traveled on by many of people (conformity) or he could take the one that was grassy and seemed to be calling out to him (individualism). Both themes help in portraying the message that Frost was trying to make appealing to the reader, which was that choices are not always easy and depending on the choice that is made can determine the future. Looking into the setting of the story is important as well, because if the story did not take place in the woods and on a road the reader would not have had the same symbolic meaning. By placing the traveler on a journey in the woods it illustrates that he was setting out to find something and wanted some place that would allow him to think. Often time when a person wants to clear their mind and think on problems or different things in general they seek a quiet place. The woods were just that for the narrator in this poem; a quiet place for him to think and clear his mind. When the speaker comes across the divide in the road he starts thinking about what direction he is going to chose. The description of the one path being rough and looked as if it had been traveled on helps to encourage the idea that many people have taking this one path. The traveler might have asked himself, do I want to conform to the ways everyone else has or do I want to be my own person and be different? If the narrator would have been in aloud city he would not have made it harder to think as well as there may have been many of people and noises that could have encouraged him to follow their lead instead of being his own person. Through the title, setting, and theme the reader is persuaded to believe that they symbolic meaning was that there are choices each and every person has to make in life, and based upon the decision determines what is to become of their future. In the end of the poem we do not know exactly what the narrator found at the end of his chosen road but he does show us that he was content with his chose by stating, “I took the one less traveled by, And that makes all the difference”.(Frost, Lines 19-20) Although the reader may not know what choice they are going to make in the end they will be like the narrator of this poem and be content with the choice they made, but may also wonder what might have happened if they chose the other path.

Reference

Frost, R. (1916). The Road Not Taken. In X. J. Gioia, Literature "An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing" Compact Interactive Edition - Sixth Edition (p. 610). Pearson.

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