Often in poems, we are confronted with metaphors. Simply, a figure of speech where one thing is described in terms of another (Jacobs, 30). Butt there are also times where the whole poem is a metaphor, when a large metaphor functions as the controlling image of a piece of work. Such is the case in Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. The expressed content of the poem is simply that of the speaker, Frost himself, out on a walk one day in a wooded area. As he is out walking, he arrives at a place in the road that forks, where he has to decide which way he is going to go. However, the implied context in this piece of work is much more complex. The entire piece is one whole metaphor for life. In this paper, I am going to attempt to explain the role and use of the metaphor in Frost’s, The Road Not Taken, and explain how it fits into the social and historical context of life at that time.
Poets are widely praised for being able to paint a picture in the mind of the reader as they read a piece of their work. Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken, is also structured in this way. From beginning to end, as you read this poem, you are able to actually see in your mind what is happening to the speaker as he is out on his walk this day. The metaphor is very useful in this sense. A further explanation for a
metaphor: an analogy identifying one object with another and ascribing to the first object one or more of the qualities of the second (Harmon and Holman, 320).Upon first reading the poem, you may or may not realize that this poem is indeed one giant metaphor for life. Yet, it is.
Aristotle praised the metaphor as “the greatest thing by far” for poets…which allowed them to find the similarities in seemingly dissimilar things (Harmon and Holman, 321). This definition of metaphor can be seen in the connotations of certain words as well in this piece of work. Lets take a look at the language used in this poem. In the first line, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” (Frost,209), the denotation of the word “yellow” is simply the color yellow, the color of the leaves, a color of fall. But the connotation of the word is much different. The underlying meaning of the word “yellow” could also be viewed as a metaphor for life, for the “golden opportunities” that await because of the choice that we choose or not choose to make along our way, along the road of life. We again see the use of metaphors in connotations of words in line 5, “To where it bent in the undergrowth” (Frost, 209). In this case, the denotation of the word “undergrowth” is the trees and things that are blocking your clear view of the path. But again the connotation of the word is much different. It too can be applied as a metaphor for life in the view that the “undergrowth” could be seen as the things that we can’t see of our lives beyond, in our futures. In stanza three we read, “In leaves no step had trodden black” (Frost, 209). Once again the denotation and connotation of the word “black” has two very different meanings. The denotation is simply the color black. Yet the connotation given to the word is more that something is dirty from wear, such as from being greatly used, well trodden, or being trampled under foot. This also can be applied as metaphors for life, for the choices that arise in our lives. Many people, when faced with a tough decision, often follow others that have once been in their position. Hence, they choose to travel a well trodden road, one that has been blackened by many different feet. Yet there are those who choose
to make their own path. Those who take a course of action that is not one that was chosen by everyone else. This is the sentiment that Frost is trying to exhibit in this poem.
Frost was a Modern poet. By modern we don’t necessarily mean that he was writing in our own time. When we refer to modern we mean the time period that this piece was written, specifically the years...
Cited: Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken.” The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry.
Ed. Jahan Ramanzani, Richard Ellmann, and Robert O’Clair. New York: Longman, 2003.
Harmon, William, and Hugh Holman. A Handbook to Literature. New Jersey: Pearson, 2006
Jacobs, Heidi. Glossary of Literary and Critical Terms. New York: Longman, 2003.
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