Wrought with Ambiguity
Robert Frost explores the ambiguity of choice in both his poems, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “The Road Not Taken”. At a glance, the poems appear to be simplistic; however, a deeper look sheds light on the ambiguity that is prominent when one approaches the end of each poem. In both poems, the narrator takes a moment to pause and acknowledge the options in front of him; the traveler is hesitant to make an immediate decision. His uncertainty in both poems shows he struggles with his decisions and the reader can see that that both poems are about life choices – however big or small the decisions may be. “The Road Not Taken” exposes the reader to an internal conflict that one faces before making a choice as one tries to predict what will unravel at the end of each given path. The fact is that the fate of any decision made remains unknown even when we chose to go down one over the other. There is often a misunderstanding of the decision made in this poem where people interpret the decision made to be final, a point of no return. One must be careful when coming to conclusions about this poem as the speaker notes that he could come back; it is just made difficult by the turn of events that will likely stem from the original decision. The conclusion of this poem leaves the reader wondering about the details of both paths and whether or not choice made was positive or negative. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is also shrouded in ambiguity as there is no explanation for why the poet decides to stop by an isolate, frigid location. The reader is aware of the potential dangers of this stop as the speaker reflects on the cold and the silence of these woods. The poem ends on a cryptic note when the reader is enlightened by the theme of choice and how our responsibilities and promises to others may influence our decisions. Together, both poems appear to be straight forward, yet once the reader takes a deeper look at each poem, one realizes that they are loaded with ambiguity and neither have a clear conclusion. “The Road Not Taken” starts off with the narrator’s dilemma of encountering a fork in the road. This split of two roads is a depiction of the poem’s overall theme, choice. This divergence fills the speaker with the regret that both roads cannot be explored as he notes, “sorry I could not travel both, and be one traveler” (2-3). As humans, we are familiar with the life and its constant demand for us to make decisions; some are simple and obvious while the more difficult ones catch us in the repetitions of “what ifs”. When faced with the tough task of choosing the “right” path – we often times jerk ourselves around like yo-yos while we try to explore the unknown possibilities. Being caught in a quagmire between different options, we often deliberate and attempt to rationalize the consequences of picking one over the other. This dilemma is acknowledged by the speaker as he stands at the apex of a split road. While he is caught within this quandary, he notes that he stands at the point where both the roads begin to diverge; he stares down as far as he can on one, until the road curves and he sees no more of it. The poet does not offer much more for the reader as far as imagery at this point. It is the natural tendency for people to examine and speculate in depth what the more desired option has in store for us and feel conflicted. Even though we are limited with our insights of our options, we tend to try to peer as far down into the future and stall at the gates of the more appealing road. The unknown usually has our imagination reeling as we try to sneak a peek of what could be. We are still limited with the details of what he does or does not see of these two paths. Besides offering up the slight details such as the yellow leaves, which allows us to deduce that this is the autumn season, we can only presume that both paths are similar due to the lack of...
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