Chaos of Life in “the Road not Taken”

In his poem “The Road Not Taken” Robert Frost captures the spirit of chaos and thereby expresses the idea that choices, even seemingly insignificant ones, can have life-altering consequences. Frost starts the poem reminiscing about traveling on a yellow road that stretches through the forest when he comes upon a split in the road. One could interpret this “split” in the road was an extremely important life choice that mapped out the future of his life, Frost Explains:

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; (1-9)

Frost surveyed the choices in front of him and said that both paths looked just as good as the other but took the second one because it had perhaps the better claim. According to “Fiat Homo”, by Joel Westerdale: “The lyrical subject anticipates that from some future perspective this choice will serve as an explanation for events he has yet to experience and which cannot be foreseen. But even so, the future self he imagines will own that decision and affirm it by integrating it into his identity”. Frost is reminiscing on this key moment in his life knowing that the choice he made had a profound impact on his life, according to chaos theory if Frost had chosen the other path, even though it was just as fair, his life would have turned out completely different.

The poet is trying to portray that the roads in the “The Road Not Taken’, are a metaphor for choices in life. When frost is presented with his two choices in the “yellow wood”, he says he’s sorry he could not travel both and be one traveler. “The choice once made determined all further possibilities for his life” (Ward). There was no going back to the exact moment in time to choose between these paths again. Once the choice was made it shaped the rest of his life. He explains that both paths are slightly different, but nearly identical. Many people interpret that because of the similarities between the two paths, the choice is basically insignificant. Frost clearly states that his choice made “all the difference”, one could completely flip that theory around such as Robert Galatzer-Levy did in his book “Emergence”. Galatzer -Levy states that “being in a position where a choice between two alternatives leads to distinctly different outcomes can make all the difference”, in Frosts system of evolution.

In the last stanza of his poem, Frost predicts that as an old man many years from now he will look back at his life, (this decision in particular) and say that his decision to take the path that was “less traveled” made all the difference in his life. Though earlier in the poem he made clear that the choices were basically the same and insignificant. One such depiction of this poem has been glorified recently on the tv show Orange is the New Black, one of the main characters states: “Everyone thinks the poem means to break away from the crowd and do your own thing, but if you read it, Frost is very clear that the two roads are exactly the same. He just chooses one at random, and then its only later at a dinner party when he tells everyone he chose the road less traveled, but he’s lying.”. She is basically stating that people look back at their life choices and think certain decisions matter, but in actual reality things happen the way they happen, and it doesn’t matter what path you choose, what’s meant to happen will happen regardless of choices made (Westerdale). Another interpretation of the poem has quite the opposite explanation, many believe that every single choice that is made has a profound impact on the course of life. If Frost had chosen, the other path his world could have been drastically different. Perhaps the most intriguing Stanza in the poem is:

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 (17-21)

Frost said he will be telling the story of his choice with a sigh, and that his choice made all the difference. Many interpret the sigh as thinking back at the difficult choice he had to make and reminiscing about the life path it took him on. When Frost says: “I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference” (20-21), he is explaining how the choice he made determined his life and the appreciation he has for it. According to “Emergence”, by Robert Galatzer-Levy: “being in a position where a choice between two alternatives leads to distinctly different outcomes can make all the difference” in Frost’s evolution and the path of his life.

Funk & Wagnells New World Encyclopedia defines chaos theory as: a mathematical theory dealing with dynamic systems whose state is extremely sensitive to their initial conditions. Any minute change in a system can result in extreme consequences to the point that its long-term behavior can be chaotic and appear random. Frost’s choice to take the path less traveled, according to chaos theory, shaped his future in such a way that even if there were a way to go back and make his decision again then the future that he expects to be awaiting him would very likely be unrecognizable. So one could assume knowing that his choice “ has made all the difference”, and having an understanding of chaos theory, that the choice to take the path he did did in fact make all the difference in the life he knows.

From coming to the split in the “yellow wood”, to reminiscing about the path Frost took “ages and ages hence”, one can come to the conclusion that even a seemingly simple decision such as taking one path in the woods over another can have life altering consequences, and very likely will make all the difference for better or worse. The life choices made in this poem do in fact decide the fate of Frosts life.

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Chaos of life in “the road not taken”. (2021, Mar 16). Retrieved October 7, 2022 , from

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