The Interpretation of Frost's Poem

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"The Road Not Taken" is a poem by Robert Frost, published in 1916 in the collection Mountain Interval. It is the first poem in the volume and is printed in italics. The title is often mistakenly given as "The Road Less Traveled", from the penultimate line: "I took the one less traveled by". "The Road Not Taken" is a narrative poem consisting of four stanzas of iambic tetrameter and is perhaps one of Frost's most popular works.


The poem has at least two interpretations: a popular interpretation that reads the last lines of the poem literally, as an expression of individualism, and an ironic interpretation, offered by many critics, that reads those lines as ironic in the context of the poem as a whole.[2]

[edit] Popular interpretation

According to the popular interpretation, the poem is inspirational, a paean to individualism and non-conformism. Popular interpretations take the last two lines literally, as meaning that the speaker was a courageous nonconformist in taking a road few other people had taken.

[edit] Ironic interpretation

The ironic interpretation, widely held by critics,[2][3] is that the poem is instead about making personal choices and rationalizing our decisions, whether with pride or with regret. In this view, "The Road Not Taken" "is perhaps the most famous example of Frost's own claims to conscious irony and 'the best example in all of American poetry of a wolf in sheep's clothing.'"[4] Frost himself warned "You have to be careful of that one; it's a tricky poem – very tricky."[5] According to Frost the poem is intended as a gentle jab at his great friend and fellow poet Edward Thomas, with whom he used to take walks through the forest (Thomas always complained at the end that they should have taken a different path) and seemed amused at the interpretation of the poem as inspirational.[6] In the ironic interpretation, the final two lines:

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the...
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