Jay Parini: On "The Road Not Taken"

A close look at the poem reveals that Frost's walker encounters two nearlv identical paths: so he insists, repeatedly. The walker looks down one, first, then the other, "as just as fair." Indeed, "the passing there / Had worn them reallv about the same." As if the reader hasn't gotten the message, Frost says for a third time. "And both that morning equally lay/ In leaves no step had trodden black." What, then, can we make of the final stanza? My guess is that Frost, the wily ironist, is saying something like this: "When I am old, like all old men, I shall make a myth of my life. I shall pretend, as we all do, that I took the less traveled road. But I shall be lying." Frost signals the mockingly self-inflated tone of the last stanza by repeating the word "I," which rhymes - several times - with the inflated word "sigh." Frost wants the reader to know that what he will be saying, that he took the road less traveled, is a fraudulent position, hence the sigh.

 

From "Frost" in Columbia Literary History of the United States. Ed. Emory Elliott. Copyright © 1988 by the Columbia University Press.

Details

Criticism Overview
Title Jay Parini: On "The Road Not Taken" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Jay Parini Criticism Target Robert Frost
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 05 Mar 2014
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication Columbia Literary History of the United States
Printer Friendly PDF Version
Contexts No Data Tags Paths, Tone, Travel, Ironists

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