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Friday, 16 April 2010

ICSE English: Poetry Study Aid Robert Frost The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost

Extract I
Two Roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not take both
And be one traveller,long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
1. What is intended by diverged? What goes the yellow wood indicate?
Diverged means to ‘go in a different direction’. As the poet or the speaker of the poem started his journey he came to a point where the road forked in two different directions placing him in a dilemma.
The yellow wood suggests that the leaves of the trees are yellow and hence the season is autumn.
Some critics suggest that yellow colour, suggesting the onset of old age, denotes Robert Frost’s middle-aged status. (The poem’s autobiographical element). Frost wrote the poem when he was no longer young.
2. The poet or the traveler feels sorry. Why? Why does the poet stand long at the crossroads?
The poet-traveller, or the poet Robert Frost, during his morning walk in an autumn morning through the woods, comes across two roads diverging in two different directions. Frost is sad that he cannot take both the roads but has to make a choice between the two.
The poet stood at the crossroads, contemplating as to which of the two roads he should take, weighing both the roads for their merits.
See that Frost calls himself a traveller which transports the morning walk to a greater attribute.
In a metaphorical level, the walk of the poet symbolizes a man’s journey through his path of life. In his life, a man very often comes across crucial situations where he has to make a decision and his decision decides his course of life.
The two roads are, metaphorically, the choices that are before him. The poet’s delay suggests obliquely the need for deep thought and reflection of the consequences before we take a life-changing decision.
3. What is the dilemma faced by the poet-traveller?
When Frost confronted the diverging road, he was in a predicament. He could not immediately decide which road to take. Hence, He stood at the fork pondering which road to take. The phrase long I stood clearly indicates the poet’s dilemma in making a decision.
4. What is meant by undergrowth? Where did the first road lead?
Undergrowth is the brush (small trees and bushes and ferns etc.) growing beneath taller trees in a wood or forest. When Frost strained to find out the stretch of one of the roads stretch, he could see that the first road curved into the bushes at a distance.
5. What portrait of the rural scenes does Robert Frost give in the extract?
Frost is acclaimed as a pastoral poet. He uses the simple, colloquial diction of the rural people. The images used in the extract, such as ‘the yellow woods’ ‘undergrowth’, give the poem a savour of the country side. Even the incident described in the extract - a man in his morning walk coming across roads that diverge- is typically countryside.
6. What is the conflict presented in the extract?
The two diverging roads that the poet faces is the core conflict. The poet or the traveller is in a predicament which road he should take. The road offers conflicting options to the poet traveller, as he has no idea of the nature or the extent of either of the roads. He cannot make a decision immediately.
In real life also, we find in such situations where we are faced with conflicting choices and our choice or decision has a far-reaching impact. The decision we make not only affects our life but also has an effect on the life of our near and dear.
7. What does the two roads symbolise? What is the significance of choosing a road?
The two roads that the poet-traveller faces in his morning walk are symbolic of the choices that we have to encounter in our life. The morning walk itself is a metaphor for the great journey of life.
In the poem the poet, after prolonged thought, decides to take the road less travelled, accepting its challenges and uncertainties. The decision is final and irreversible and it has its own consequences, may be positive or negative.
In real life also we confront such critical situations where we face life-altering options. The decision we make is crucial. We should contemplate over the choices before as and decide our priorities. Once we make the decision and proceed accordingly, we can never reverse it. The life takes its own course, and it does not give a second chance to alter our decision and change our course of life. Hence, decide wisely.

Extract II
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.
1. Which road does the poet-traveller decide to take?
The poet poet-traveller takes the second road as it seems to be less used and less travelled than the first one.
The choice of the road in a way signifies the character of the traveller. He decides to take the road less travelled. This choice shows that that the traveller has his own perceptions of life, is a free spirit undaunted by the challenges and uncertainties of life.
2. In what manner did the second road have a better claim?
The second road appears at first glance to be less worn and therefore less traveled. Hence the road has a better claim.
3. Give the meaning of: it was grassy and wanted wear. Give the second meaning of wanted wear.
it was grassy and wanted wear= the road was full of grass; less travelled and hence was not much used.
Wanted wear here can have tow meanings:
i. Lacked = It was less used and hence not worn out.
ii. Desired = it longed or desired to be used or walked upon.
If we take the second meaning then we can see that the poet personifies the road. The road has a desire or longing which is a human attribute.
Personification is a figure of speech in which the poet gives human attributes to inanimate objects or ideas. Poets usually embellish their poems with such figures of speech to enhance the poetic quality.
4. Why did not the poet-traveller take the first road?
The first road, at first glance, appears to be a much-used road and more worn out. Hence he rejects the first road chooses the second road, the road less travelled.
This selection suggests that he has an independent spirit and does not wish to follow the crowd. After a moment, he concludes that both roads are about equally worn.
5. How does he assess the two diverging roads in the last two lines of the extract?
Frost takes the second road as it appears less trampled and wanted wear than the  first one. Yet later he realises that both the roads are equally worn out.
Extract III
And both that morning 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.
1. How did the roads look that morning?
On that particular morning, the poet discovers that the leaves that have fallen on both the roads are still quite yellow and are not trampled black by men.
2. Give the meaning of :
And both that morning lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
And both, i.e. both of the diverging roads.
Both the roads on that morning were covered with fresh leaves, yellow autumn leaves, which were not trod upon and the leaves have not turned black because they were not tramped down.
3. Why did he retain the first road for another day? Why is the poet-traveller doubtful of his return?
The poet remains committed to his decision to take the road he had already selected, saying that he will save the other road for another day. He wishes that he may be able to come back to the crossroads later and take the first road. He observes, however, that he probably will never pass this way again and thus will never have an opportunity to take the other road. Life being what it is, one thing leads to another. Life seldom gives us an opportunity to retrace our steps and change the path we have chosen.
4. How does the extract show the concern of the poet-traveller about decision making?
As the poet or the speaker of the poem started his journey he came to a spot where the road branched in two different directions placing him in a quandary. He was at a loss to decide what road to take; the poet stood at the intersection, speculating as to which of the two roads he should take, weighing both the roads for their merits. He has to make a decision but his decision will have far-reaching consequences. The poet is anxious to make the right decision so that the road he chooses will be the right one which leads him to the right destination. The possibility of making a wrong decision which may prove to be grave fills the mind of the poet with intense anxiety. Hence the poet stands for a long time to ponder over the various factors that should influence his decision.
The poet or poet-traveller of the event is symbolic of an individual on his life journey and the morning walk portrays the life’s journey itself. The crossroads represents a crucial moment in one’s life when we have to make a concrete decision which decides our future destiny. If the decision made, the choice taken is a wrong one, our life will be shallow and miserable. If on the other hand, the decision
made is the right one, our life will advance to prosperity and welfare. The likelihood of arriving at a wrong decision fills our mind with deep distress and acute anxiety.
5. What is the theme of the poem The Road Not Taken?
The poem ‘The Road Not Taken’ offers a profound perception into the process of decision making.The traveller at the crossroads of the diverging roads is symbolic of an individualat a decisive moment in his life’s journey. His decision or choice of future action is of utmost significance since the decision decides his destiny.
The poet Robert Frost through this poem asserts the importance of the right decision at the right time.
In life we have to make our choices; sometimes we have to make these choices without a full understanding of the state of affairs. Even then, we should arrive at decision only after carefully considering all the available options. We may regret our choice or we may be excited of our choice, but the choice at the crucial moment will determine and change the path of our life. Hence, the poem stresses the need for deep and critical analysis of the situation before we arrive at a life-transforming decision.
Extract IV
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 travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
1. What will the poet-traveller tell some time in future? What is the implication of narrating his story with a sigh?
In years to come, the poet-poet-traveller will be telling others about the choice he made on that particular morning when during his walk he came across a spot where two roads diverged and he decided to take the road apparently less travelled and less worn out. While doing so, he will sigh either with relief that he made the right choice or with regret that he made the wrong choice. Whether right or wrong, the choice will have had a significant impact on his life.
The traveller at the crossroads of the diverging roads is figurative of an individual at a key moment in his life’s voyage. His judgment or choice is of highest implication since the decision determines his destiny.
If he had made the right decision, his life would have prospered and his sigh will be a sigh of relief at having made a discerning choice. On the other hand, if the decision he made was not astute, his life would be mired in misery, and the sigh will be a sigh of regret for making an ill-judged choice.
2. What is meant by the road less travelled by? Do you think that the choice made him happy? Give a justification for your answer.
The road less travelled by literally means the road which is not usually frequented by men. However, the traveller and the road metaphorically stand for an individual in his life’s journey,the road less travelled by takes a different meaning. Figuratively it represents the path of life that is not usually preferred by men; but a path which is challenging and more adventurous with its own uncertainties.
The poem does not clearly state whether the choice made by the poet made him happy or sad. However, if observe the general run of life, we find that the individuals who have left their footprints in the history of humanity have always taken an uncharted path. Hence, we can safely conclude that the poet-poet-traveller was made happy by choosing the less travelled path, not the beaten track. The concluding line of the poem ‘And that has made all the difference’ implies the poet’s joy.
3. And that has made all the difference. What is your opinion of the difference- was it for the better or the worse? Substantiate your answer.
The poem does not clearly state whether the choice made by the poet made him happy or sad. However, if examine the way of the world, we find that the individuals who have achieved recognition and fame have always eschewed the beaten track.. Hence, we can reason that the poet-poet-traveller was made happy by choosing the less travelled path, not the beaten track. The concluding line of the poem ‘And that has made all the difference’ connotes the poet’s joy.
4. In the context of the poem, provide two reasons to point out that the poet-traveller regrets his decision of having taken the less travelled road.
When confronted with two divergent roads, the poet chooses the road apparently less travelled thinking that it had a better claim. Later, he realises that both the roads are equally worn out. So his choice of the second road is deprived of its significance which makes the poet sad. However, he gets comfort by thinking that he will come back later to the spot and take the other road. Yet, he regretfully realises that it is not possible to retrace the steps once taken as life does not give chances to change our chosen track.
5. What appeals to you in the poem?
The poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost is extremely appealing as it , in simple words and style , presents the importance of making judicious decision at critical moments in our life. In life we have to choose our options; sometimes we have to make these choices without a full awareness of the circumstances. Even then, we should come to a decision only after vigilantly considering all the offered alternatives. We may regret our choice or we may be thrilled of our choice, but the choice at the vital moment will determine and transform the path of our life. Hence, the poem emphasises the necessity for deep and serious reasoning of the circumstances before we arrive at a life-transforming decision.
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  1. I extremely love this poem but have always found it difficult to express the conflict on the meaning of "the sigh"..This set of extracts has really helped a lot!!!!!

  2. this has helped put the poem in perspective better than any summery i've ever read and the questions asked cover all the topics in each stanza throughly and its an ideal guid !!!

  3. Thank you so much! This is better than any guide book in the market!

  4. i had to do this for a project................and it helped a lot!!!!!!!!!!

  5. i found it very useful......more than the books.thanks

  6. anonimous
    i am so glad to see such a good guide for robert frost poems....

  7. well a question in many of the help books .its given that it was a sigh of regret that he heaved.or it was a sigh of rejoice because he was a successful poet!so in my examinations what should i write?

  8. i luv this poem and the extracts have helped me to understand this poem well

  9. i luv this poem so much and this extract has helped me a lot

  10. Plse can u give a detailed information of the short story girls.this was just amazing!!!!

  11. this was very useful n helped me a lot in understanding the text

  12. nice work !!!! tnx guys.....

  13. Just give the explanation and Questions and answers for the other short stories and poems of the ICSE just like the above poems.
    Thank you Sir,
    May God bless you
    A Teacher

  14. Thank you for sharing this post.

  15. thank you
    this has really helped me a lot as i found it difficult to understand even with guide
    this will really boost my english marks

  16. thank you for the questions... :)

  17. thanks alot Sir... :)