The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Often Frost's poem is cited as encouragement or justification to take the "less traveled" path in life as that makes "all the difference", but I think that's an overly simplistic reading. I believe he meant something much deeper and more complex.

Note that Frost says, "had worn them really about the same", so really both paths are about the same not one heavily traveled and other other lightly. Then he leads the oft quoted final lines with "I shall be telling this with a sigh". Why a sigh if taking the less traveled path "made all the difference"?

Because, what he's saying is that while both paths are the same with nothing to encourage choosing one over the other, later he will re-tell the story of choosing one, with after the fact justification, that he boldly took the less traveled path and it made all the difference. Really it didn't.

He's commenting about our human ability to justify our choices by using distinguishing characteristics that did not exist at the time we made a nearly random choice. The poem is more of an observation about our ability to justify our actions than guidance regarding making the best choices in life.