The Road Not Taken: Setting, Theme, And Symbolism

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Life is full of many choices people must make as they go through each day. Some choose a more conventional path like the majority of people take, while others prefer the path less traveled, like the author, as it can be better suited to their individual needs. Poetry is one literary way to show how life involves a series of choices to create one’s path, and The Road Not Taken does this very well. Robert Frost uses setting, theme, and symbolism to show readers that the path they take in life directly impacts their outcome.

The setting of The Road Not Taken helps readers understand the overall meaning of this poem in relation to how decisions affects one’s life. The literal setting of this poem takes place in a “Yellow Wood” (The Road Not Taken 1), which tells the reader that fall is just beginning to appear. In the wood, there is a road that splits in two; one is more worn and the other is not as well traveled. This split in the road is the subject of reflection in Frost’s poem. While there is not much information given to the reader about the literal setting in the poem, the overall setting given can also be interpreted in a figurative way. For instance, the split in the road shows the reader how there are two different paths in life: both are unknown, but one is a more conventional path and the other “was grassy and wanted wear” (The Road Not Taken 8), which means it is a less traditional path. The setting of the leaves changing on the trees represents how the author could be going through a change in life, as the leaves change color in the fall. This helps show the reader what the author is trying to convey, and the theme of the poem also helps do the same.

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Frost uses the theme to show his readers that the choices they make will directly impact their lives. The main theme of the poem conveys how people’s lives are full of choices, and it is the ones that they choose that will define them for the rest of their days. For example, Frost explains how he had choices in life by describing two different paths as illustrated in his words. He chose his path as the one less traveled, which “has made all the difference” (The Road Not Taken 20). Since the reader cannot take both paths at the same time, Frost reveals, “I shall be telling this with a sigh” (The Road Not Taken 16), as he has regret in the fact that he must choose one path over the other in his life. The theme of this poem really helps solidify the point that Frost was trying to make, and the symbolism of it also helps drive home the message even more.

Finally, The Road Not Taken uses symbolism to help show the reader the meaning behind the actual subject of the poem. One of the major symbolic meanings seen in it is the “Yellow Wood” (The Road Not Taken 1). This sets the scene for seasons coming to an end and shows how change is inevitable. In the case of this poem, the author has to choose which path in life he takes. Another example of symbolism in this story is the road. It shows the journey that people must take in their lives. People’s lives are never the same, just like how two roads are not the same; people are imperfect just like how roads can have potholes. Furthermore, it shows how no matter what happens in people’s lives, change is likely, and life will have bumps in the road along the way. The symbolism in this poem perfectly shows the point Frost is trying to get across to the reader.

To conclude, Frost’s view on choices is conveyed effectively through his use of setting, theme, and symbolism. Christians face moral choices daily, even though many might choose an easier and possibly unmoral path, the Bible says to decide wisely every day based on the Word of God, even if it is not the popular route. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Work Cited

  1. Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken.” 1915. Perrine’s Literature: Structure, Sound, & Sense. 13th ed. Thomas R. Arp and Greg Johnson. Cengage Learning, 2018. 792-793. Print.
  2. The Bible. New International Vers. Bible Gateway. Web. 21 October. 2019.   


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