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Road Not Taken

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Life is a journey with a choice of many roads to travel. Everyone is a traveler on the roads of life and must choose his own path. In Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” the traveler must decide which road is best for him. Does he take the path most traveled or does he go down “the one less traveled by” (19)? When one takes the road “ less traveled” (19) he is choosing his own path in life rather than following the mainstream. Frost gives support to the idea that the choices one makes in life makes him the person he is.

Frost’s importance as a poet derives from the power and memorability of particular poems. “The Death of the Hired Man” (from North of Boston) combines lyric and dramatic poetry in blank verse. “After Apple-Picking” (from the same volume) is a free-verse dream poem with philosophical undertones. “Mending Wall” (all published in North of Boston) demonstrates Frost’s simultaneous command of lyrical verse, dramatic conversation, and ironic commentary. “The Road Not Taken” and “Birches” (from Mountain Interval) and the oft-studied “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” (from New Hampshire) exemplify Frost’s ability to join the pastoral and philosophical modes in lyrics of unforgettable beauty (Academic American Encyclopedia).

The books and writers most popular with the public are rarely the ones most highly regarded by critics. Robert Frost was the most popular American poet of the

twentieth century. Most Americans recognize his name, the titles of and lines from

best-known poems, and even his face and the sound of his voice. Given his immense popularity, it is a remarkable testimony to the range and depth of his achievements that he is also considered, by those qualified to judge, to be one of the greats, if not the very greatest, of modern American poets (Literature Online).

Robert Frost was born in San Francisco in 1874. He moved to New England at the age of eleven and became interested in reading and writing poetry during his high school years in Lawrence, Massachusetts. He was enrolled at Dartmouth College in 1892, and later at Harvard, but never earned a formal degree (Academy of American Poets)

Frost worked at a variety of jobs in his late teens and early twenties, including mill hand, newspaper reporter, and teacher in his mother’s school. In 1894, a poem of his entitled, “My Butterfly” was published in a New York journal, The Independent. This seemed to be the start of a successful career as a poet, but he would in fact endure nearly twenty years of isolation and neglect (Literature Online).

Frost married Elinor Miriam White in 1895. She was a major inspiration to his literature until she died in 1938. The first son died at an early age from cholera. This was one of many family tragedies that Frost would endure. He and Elinor had five other children, the youngest living only three days. Frost inherited a farm from his grandfather and lived on the farm for ten years. He sold the farm in 1911 and moved to England.

It was abroad that Frost met and was influenced by such contemporary British poets as Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, and Robert Graves. While in England, Frost

also established a friendship with the poet Ezra Pound, who helped to promote and publish his work. By the time Frost returned to the United States in 1915, he had

published two full-length collections, A Boy’s Will and North of Boston, and his reputation was established. By the nineteen-twenties, he was the most celebrated poet in America, and with each new bookвЂ"including New Hampshire (1923), A Further Range (1936), Steeple Bush (1947), and In the Clearing (1962)вЂ"his fame and honors (including four Pulitzer Prizes) increased (Academy of American Poets).

Upon his return to America, Frost’s outward life began to take the shape that it would follow thereafter: publication of new and collected volumes at fairly regular intervals; teaching appointments, often sinecures, at Amherst, Dartmouth, Harvard, and Michigan, with his income supplemented by a heavy schedule of lectures and poetry readings all over the country; accumulating fame and honors, including an unprecedented four Pulitzer Prizes. The capstone of his public career was his appearance at John F. Kennedy’s Presidential inauguration in January 1961. Kennedy also sent him to the Soviet Union as a sort of cultural envoy in 1962, not long before Frost’s death in a Boston hospital on January 29, 1963, eight weeks short of his eighty-ninth birthday (Literature Online).

Frost’s poetry is structured within traditional metrical and rhythmical schemes; he disliked free verse. Although he concentrates on ordinary subject matter, Frost’s emotional range is wide and deep, and his poems often shift dramatically from a tone of humorous banter to the passionate expression of tragic experience. Much of his poetry is concerned with the interaction between humans and nature. Frost regarded nature as a

beautiful but dangerous force, worthy of admiration but nonetheless fraught with peril. His work shows his strong sympathy for the values of American society (Encarta).

First published in Mountain Interval, 1920, “The Road Not Taken” reflects Frost’s humanistic view. This poem tells of a traveler who must make a choice of what road to travel and chooses the road “ less traveled” (19).

“The Road Not Taken” begins by introuducing the situtation of a traveler at a crossroads in life. The first stanza sets the scene and proposes the impasse. “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” (1) creates the imagery of two roads forking in a fall forest scene. The “yellow wood” (1) depicts fall with the leaves turned yellow. It is also significant that the setting is in the woods or forest. Most inhabited areas of the world have roads that are numbered, and one can use a map the get from one place to another. In the woods and forest the paths are not numbered and many times are undiscovered. Therefore, the woods or forest create the image of the unknown or unexplored. The wood is lifeвЂ"the unknown. The roads represent the decisions or choices made in life.

The impasse is proposed by the line “And sorry I could not travel both” (2).

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