Discuss the dilemma that the poet faced when the poet had to choose one road out of two. Was the poet wise in choosing the road not frequented by people? What do you think?
Answer: In the poem, “The Road not Taken” the poet Robert Frost has showed a dilemma which he faced when he had to choose one road out of two. He chose the unfrequented road. He was wise in choosing the road, for he ultimately succeeded.
The poem mainly deals with the poet’s decision when faced with the problem of having to choose one out of the two. Once the poet was passing through yellow wood. He stood at a fork in a wood; that means, he saw that his road bifurcated from the point at which he arrived. He felt himself to be in a dilemma because he could not follow both the roads as he was a single person. He too stood at the bifurcation, pondering over which road to take. On viewing both the roads, he saw that one of the two was more frequented than the other. That is, more people used that road, than the other one. After some deliberations he decided to follow the less frequented road though he did not know where the less frequented road would take him to. If he had followed the more frequented one, then he could be somewhat assured that it would take him to a safe destination though that would be a common one. If he took the less frequented one, he could not be so much sure of where it would lead him to. The poet underwent the wavering doubt while choosing the less trodden of the two roads at a bifurcation. The road indicated the beginning of a maze leading to an uncertain future. He did not feel sure that he would ever be able to come back to the place of his starting the journey along the untraded road, or where the road would take him to.
Despite the doubt, the poet took the risky road, the less frequented one. Still he could feel that he could foretell about his future success. What made him different from others was his choice of the risky road, the less travelled one. The poet says in the poem—
“I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
The poet expressed his satisfaction at the fact that his choice of the untraded road led to the success that he achieved. It was against the normal or usual way of choosing between alternatives; people usually choose the more common way that is the way chosen by most people. The poet chose the way in an unusual manner. Though it was risky, it bought him his desired success. The life of the poet amply illustrates the foretelling made in the poem. Frost’s life was very unsuccessful in the beginning. He tried different occupations. But he was not successful. Then he took the risky decision of following the career of a poet. He had to suffer in the beginning though, but ultimately he was crowned with success in his career. The poet has an intuition that one day he will look back in retrospect and perhaps be glad that he took the less frequented road. The poet’s difference is a characteristic part of him and is ingrained in him—even before he launched on his career as a poet. The road that Frost took was not only a different road, but it was a very lonely road, very few people took to it. But as destiny had it, it was the right road for Frost, the road he was bound to take. Very unselfconsciously, the poet reveals himself to us as one who is Hamlet-like, who is too intelligent and conscious to do anything without pondering on the pros and cons of it. When he has made his choice he wistfully yearns for the alternative which he has been forced to reject.
He does not believe that man must learn to accept and live with his limitations. We notice that when the road forks, the narrator regrets that he possibly cannot travel both roads because he is ‘one traveler’. He learns painfully that man cannot have things all his own way; he is not only bound to make a choice but also that the choice he makes is irrevocable. One must hope to get the best of everything. Man’s vision encompasses more than what he can get in his arms. One may always look heaven ward and aspire for the stars but one must never forget that one has to walk on the earth. Louis Untermeyer says,
“Robert has gone his own way. He could not help it; his destination and perhaps his destiny was directed by the spirit behind the man … Once while travelling alone, Frost tells us, he stood at a point on the road, undecided which part to take. Finally, he chose one because it seemed a little less frequented, though actually there was no such difference, for the passing there had worn them really about the same. Yet even at the moment of choice, the poet quizzically imagined that the choice was important, that he would someday tell himself he took the less travelled road. The poet’s ‘difference’ is in him from the beginning, long before he sets out on his career. The road that Robert Frost took was not only the different road, the right road for him, but the only road he could have taken.”
“The Road Not Taken” is a wonderfully compact poem where the poet has stated his dilemma in decision-making, when he faced the problem of choosing one road out of two. This problem of choosing a road is symbolical of any problem in life. This dilemma is universal —all of us have this dilemma sometime in our life. The poet faced this dilemma, and made a risky choice. He was successful in his decision making; his choice of the road led him to his success ultimately.