2Symbolism in Literature
Published by susansteppe, February 27, 2011
Symbolism in "The Road Not Taken", "A Worn Path", and "Used to Live Here Once".
When looking at the short story and poem it is impossible to see it all in a literal form. There is always some sort of symbolism that occurs within the body of the text, but what is symbolism. It can be defined differently by many people. Even when looking at a dictionary it does not typically give a thorough answer. It is because symbolism is created by the author. However, it can be contradicted or have a completely obscure meaning to the reader. This is the exact reason why symbolism cannot be defined. However, it can be interpreted. Understanding the journey that characters take and their symbolic nature is definitely worth decoding. In fact, the symbolism of the journey is usually the basis behind the literary work itself.
One of the well-known literary works with a symbolic journey is Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken.” In the poem there is a man who has come to a crossroad in his life. One path is traveled on frequently while the other path is not. He has to make a decision as to what path he should take. No matter what, he knows that he cannot turn back once he has made the choice, but it is implied. He chooses the path less traveled and, in turn, it happens to be the best choice he had ever made.
Many have analyzed this poem and many have come up with different ideas of what it actually means. Some say it is about suicide, some say it is about life changes, while others insist it is about life changes. When is the interpretation wrong? The reader gets what they must out of the poem as they read it. It depends on what life situation they are going through at that time. The author, Robert Frost, knew what he was writing about. Therefore, the interpretation of the poem actually merges itself with the reader. Regardless, there is a journey that occurs throughout this poem. To analyze the literary work there needs to be a beginning.
Read more in Poetry
« Does a Sonnet Always Have 14 Lines? Poetry Comparison Essay – “The Evacuee” and “Death of a Naturalist” »In the first two lines of Robert Frost’s poem he says:
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both” (Clugston, R.W., 2010; section 2.2).
There is a certain symbolism in the yellow wood. It is not that the forest was filled with yellow trees. It was obviously at the beginning of fall. Fall is the season that everyone slows down from the summer. The anticipation of winter is coming and can cause a sort of depression in some people. It would explain why he wanted to travel both. The following line says:
“And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth” (Clugston, R.W., 2010; sec 2.2).
Here the reader comes to understand that the man took his time looking down the path. This could symbolize patience or a lack of movement, which would again go along with the idea that the man was depressed. Another aspect of the idea of depression, one path had leaves on it while the other was grassy. When someone is depressed they do not want to go down a dreary path. Instead, they would want to go down the grassy path that looked less traveled. Perhaps then something would change in their life. The actual symbolism of the paths themselves goes right along with that idea.
However, the man was obviously optimistic because he did think about saving the one path for another day. He does contradict himself when he doubts that he will come back. The symbolism occurs with his doubts. He knows that once he goes down one path that he will not be able to come back at all. When the reader thinks about it there is an ordinary situation with this scenario because the entire poem is about a man who stops when he comes to a fork in the road. Nevertheless, the road...
References: Clugston, R.W. (2010) Journey into Literature. San Diego, CA. Bridge point Education.
Moberly, K. (Winter 2005/Spring 2006) Toward the North Star: Eudora Welty’s “A Worn
Path” and the Slave Narrative Tradition
Piwinski, D.J. (Winter 2008) Mistletoe in Eudora Welty’s ‘A Worn Path.’ 16 (1): 40-42. ANQ:
A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews
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