Setting & Metaphor in Frost's Road Not Taken Essay

Pages: 5 (1431 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 4  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Written: November 26, 2019

SAMPLE EXCERPT . . .
Frost is really simply showing how his friend would become lost in the words and feel like he had been lost for "ages" and how his decision to take the grassier road (more inviting because less worn) tended to always be the wrong decision. For readers, the literal meaning is displaced for the connotative meaning of making an important decision in one’s life and looking back and seeing how that fateful decision makes “all the difference” (Van Dore).

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The setting is important to the poem to understand what Frost is doing. It is indeed just meant to be about a walk in the woods. Frost describes the setting well—identifying the roads, one “where it bent in the undergrowth” (5), and the other “just as fair, / And perhaps having the better claim, / Because it was grassy and wanted wear…” (6-8). The place is clearly a woods and the fork in the road is visualized nicely. Frost describes it as a morning during autumn, when no one has yet been walking about to disturb the scene: “And both [roads] that morning equally lay / In leaves no step had trodden black” (11-12). The setting is thus made clear: it is set in the woods, literally. Yet because of the striking metaphorical power of the idea of the road and the strong connotative meaning that the images provide, the reader is able to get a much more metaphorical/symbolic meaning from the poem than a literal one, which is rooted in jest (Finger; Fleissner).

Essay on Setting & Metaphor in Frost's Road Not Taken Assignment

Thus, metaphor is used in the poem more by the reader than by the writer, though the writer does supply the opportunity for a metaphor to be read into the poem. As Van Dore notes, Frost “was being subtly playful” in his rather serious sounding poem (555). His readers have tended to oversubscribe to a sense of deep metaphor that they find in the poem—the road in the woods serving for many as the metaphorical road through life; the fork in the road serving as the metaphorical moment of choice, wherein a person must make a decision that will impact the rest of his life; the road “less traveled” serving as the metaphorical great unknown—the haunting “what if” that plagues many with regret. To them, the poem is about having the courage to leave the beaten path and reject the status quo—i.e., the boring desk job, the cubicle at the soulless corporation, the 9-5; the home with a garden, wife, dog, and 2.5 kids. Yet, as Frost himself admitted, he was merely attempting to make light of a friend’s tendency to get lost on his walks by taking the wrong path. The poem was literally meant to be about a walk in the woods—not about a journey through life. Yet the metaphors can easily be read into the poem and meaning extrapolated from them because of the way Frost encourages such an interpretation. Unless the reader knows the back story, he is unlikely to realize that the “sigh” and the “Oh!” are meant to sound regretful rather than celebratory.

My sense of the poem, having now understood the back story is that it is in a funny jab at a friend’s tendency to become lost in the woods. However, I can see why people in the modern era would view it as an encouraging ode to ditching the status quo. In a way, Frost inadvertently or perhaps unwittingly uses metaphor to send an unintended message to his reader—one the reader actually wants to hear, regretting in the opposite way that he himself has never taken the less traveled road and gone where others have not. This is what makes the poem poignant for many, whereas Frost was really intending to have some fun at a friend’s expense. However, as Fleissner points out, human insight can perhaps reveal more about the poem than Frost himself realized was there, and I agree with that argument, too.

Works Cited
  1. Finger, Larry. "Frost's Reading of" The Road Not Taken"." The Robert Frost Review 7 (1997): 73-76.
  2. Fleissner, R. F. "Whose" Road Less Traveled By"? Frost's Intent Once Again." The Robert Frost Review 9 (1999): 22-26.
  3. Frost, Robert. “The Road… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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