The Almost Universally Misinterpreted Poem “The Road Not Taken” and the Fascinating Story Behind It



hello I'm Dave and Hiskey and you were watching this today I found out YouTube channel in the video today we're looking at the fascinating story behind the famous poem the road not taken' let's get started Robert Frost is one of the most critically acclaimed American poets of the 20th century which is a roundabout way of saying you almost certainly studied one of his poems in school most likely it was a short piece called the road not taken' a work famous for being one of the most misinterpreted poems ever written and a testament to how twisted the meaning of something can be by taking a quote out of context beyond generally being misinterpreted it also played a small role in the death of the guy it was written about to begin with the part of the poem most everyone is intimately familiar with is the last three lines two roads diverged in a wood and I I took the one less traveled by and that has made all the difference from this and this alone it would seem the protagonist of the poem took the road less traveled by and this positively benefit his life overtaking the more commonly trodden paths while poems can have many different meanings to different people and certainly parts of this particular poem are very much open to interpretation what cannot be denied is that the central character of this poem unequivocally does not actually take the road less traveled you see while it may come as a shock to those of us that had a habit of occasionally nodding off in school the poem has more than just three lines and the true meaning of most of it is fairly obvious if you just read the entire thing all the way through to wit the protagonist of the poem goes out of his way to make it clear that the two paths are virtually identical neither is more traveled than the other the set up 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 from this you might actually think one was less trodden except for the next line when the traveller explains he was really just casting about trying to find some reason to take one road or the other in the previous lines and that in truth the road seemed equally traveled though as for that passing there had worn them really about the same and both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden black of course one can't just stand around a wood all day so choice must be made with no reason to choose one Road over the other the traveller takes one the Consol's himself that he'll simply come back another time and see where the other road goes before admitting that in this thought he was really just trying to fool himself once again as he had tried to do previously by attempting to convince himself one pass was less traveled than the other oh I kept the first for another day yet knowing how way leads on to way I doubted if I should ever come back in the end he states the most famous part of this poem though including two key lines that are generally omitted when people are quoting the last stanza of this piece 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 so in the end while he's very clear in the present that the two roads were identical with no real reason to take one over the other later in life he knew he'd once again fool himself this time successfully by instead remembering that one road was less traveled by and that this influenced his decision when in fact he really decided on a whim of course it isn't wholly clear at this point whether in ages and ages hence he is sighing and noting that has made all the difference out of contentment that his reasoning was sound and that he made the correct choice or regret that he had not been able to see where the other path went perhaps to a better place than the one he chose that fateful day it's generally thought that the latter regret notion is the correct interpretation at least as far as the original intent of the author perhaps speculatively backing this up is the fact that the poem is called the road not taken' rather than the road less traveled priming the reader to focus on the former rather than the latter but is there any actual evidence to support one interpretation over the other at least as far as Frost was intending when he wrote it if he had any real intent at all Frost would later state of the poem you have to be careful with that one it's a tricky poem very tricky Frost's also called the poem his private jest you see frost was well aware that people would misunderstand the road not taken' he experienced this fact when he first began sharing it with everyone taking the poem pretty seriously as he noted after reading it to a group of college students he also later stated this was despite the fact that he had been doing my best to make it obvious by my manner that I was fooling make opah to delve further into the mystery we must look into the interesting origin of the poem according to frost the poem was about his very close friend Edward Thomas a fellow writer and eventual poet in his last year's who frost got to know very well during his time in England in the early 20th century frost later noted in letter he wrote to Amy Lowell that the closest I ever came in friendship to anyone in England or anywhere else in the world I think was with Edward Thomas during their time together Frost and Thomas took to frequently taking what he called talks walking walks through the English countryside to look for wildflowers and spot birds and most importantly discuss all manner of topics from politics in the war to poetry and their wives and everything in between frost later knows that during their random walking about frequently a choice had to be made over which path to take inevitably one would be chosen for one reason or another and after their walks Thomas would sometimes kick himself for not taking the other path if their walk failed to result in the sighting of anything interesting this ultimately caused Frost equipped that Thomas was a person whichever road he went would be sorry he didn't go the other when he returned to America Frost penned the poem is a friendly humorous jab about Thomas's indecisiveness sending an early draft to Thomas titled two roads in the early summer of 1915 Thomas reportedly misinterpreted it Frost then explained the poems actual meaning even going so far as saying that the sigh was a mock sigh hypocritical for the fun of the thing in response thomas noted that he felt that frost had carried himself in his ironies to subtly and that i doubt if you can get anybody to see the fun of the thing without showing them and advising them which kind of laugh they are to turn on nonetheless the poem had an effect on thomas and not long after reading it as you'll soon see he decided to enlist in the army this is something of a surprise move as thomas was not noted for being particularly patriotic at least in terms of caring one way or the other about the politics of the conflict resulting in World War one indeed he was noted as being an anti nationalist who despised the propaganda and blatant racism against Germans being thrown about in the British media at the time he even went so far as to state that his real countrymen were not Englishmen but the birds however during the pair's walks two things occurred to begin making Thomas seriously consider what he'd do if the war was brought to him would he flee for safer shores or stand and defend his country one of these events occurs shortly after the start of World War one Thomas noted in his journal a sky of dark and rough horizontal mass in northwest with a one-third moon bright and almost orange low down clear of cloud and I thought of men eastward seeing it at the same moment it seems foolish to have loved England up to now without knowing it could perhaps who ravaged and I could and perhaps would do nothing to prevent it he later noted something I felt had to be done before I could look again come Liat English landscape so up to this point he had been indifferent to the politics behind the war he now began to consider that it really didn't matter what the war was being fought over if the land and all that was on it was directly threatened it needed defending if it was to be preserved the second event that influenced his decision was something he often lamented after in letters this concerned a matter of what he perceived to be cowardice on his part though most of us might consider that he was being the only reasonable one in the ordeal during one of frost and Thomas's walks in late 1914 they were confronted with a shot gun wielding gamekeeper who told them to leave the area Frost felt he was fully in his rights to walk the land in question and wasn't inclined to leave never mind the gun pointed at him Frost even nearly decided to bring his fist to the gunfight but put them down after observing Thomas backing away as Frost was escalating the situation a few more choice words later and the pair parted ways with the gamekeeper but this wasn't the end of it frost decided to go find the gamekeepers home and after banging on the door the gamekeeper answered at this point frost no doubt using eloquence befitting a wordsmith of his stature told the gamekeeper off once again explaining what would happen if said gamekeeper ever chose to threaten the pair again and while they walked with that said Frost and Thomas turned to leave as they were leaving the gamekeeper grabbed his shotgun and chose his first target as Thomas once again Thomas reasonably reacted by trying to exit the situation rapidly without provoking the person who had a gun trained on him in the end the pair left unharmed however Thomas couldn't help but well on the fact that his friend had not back down to a shotgun in his face while he himself reacted the opposite he became well fully ashamed of what he perceived as his cowardice in the matter it also wasn't lost on him that at that very moment some of his other friends were off demonstrating their bravery fighting in the war while he was safe at home frost later attributed this feeling Thomas had of his perceived cowardice as the core reason he went to war essentially frost felt Thomas wanted a do-over and was making another attempt at testing his mettle this time in France this brings us back to the poem and the decision Thomas had long been agonizing over he had strong thoughts of immigrating to America to come live near Frost stating I am thinking about America is my only chance apart from paradise but that he also felt drawn to the war frankly I do not want to go but hardly a day passes without me thinking I should with no call the problem is endless then the poem arrived on his doorstep in the early summer of 1915 and so it was that shortly thereafter early July of that year he wrote to frost telling of his final decision on which road he'd take last week I had screwed myself up to the point of believing I should come out to America but I've altered my mind I am going to enlist on Wednesday if the doctor will pass me today the poem and it's thought-provoking lines are generally regarded as being the final straw that made Thomas decide to stop brooding over what to do and finally pick a road finding his courage and enlisting this came as a surprise to virtually everyone in Thomas's life due to the fact that he was a 37 year old married father of three who as noted was staunchly anti-nationalist and otherwise was not required to enlist the decision costume is life on April 9th 1917 during the Battle of Arras in France he was shot in the chest and killed a death that was seemingly premature of course had he taken the other road perhaps instead of a bullet through his chest he may have met with the watery grave if he's shipped to the States had been sunk or perhaps he would have spent many years writing incredible poetry that was the hallmark of the last couple years of his life happily living and working next to his great friend Robert Frost so thanks for watching this video if you liked it please click that like button below and consider sharing it with anyone you think might find it interesting we're a relatively new channel so that helps us out a ton and of course if you're new to today I found out don't forget to click that subscribe button to get more interesting videos like this we release a new video almost every single day so you're sure to find something you find interesting thanks for watching

24 thoughts on “The Almost Universally Misinterpreted Poem “The Road Not Taken” and the Fascinating Story Behind It

  1. Looking for more amazing fact videos? Then check out this video and find out the answer to the question- Why Did Yankee Doodle Stick a Feather in His Cap and Call It Macaroni?:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ABbxQk92AA

  2. Bet that game keeper was feeling like a real big man pointing his shotgun at two unarmed intellectuals, the only balls he had were those in his shotgun.

  3. Damn, Simon Whistler looks completely different without a beard.

    (disclaimer for the presumptuous: Just popped up on my feed years later, completely forgot this cool dude did these in occasion).

  4. so hes making fun of the arrogant, yuppie fags, idiots, and COMMUNIST corrupted mindless, that now more than ever walk around all day declaring their $6 beverage, their iphone, or yoga exercise as AAMMMAAAAAAAAAAAZZZZZZZZZIIIINNNNNNNNGGGGGG. btw did you know that there are no such things as sarcasm or complex thought plays in the 3rd world/tropical peoples still demonstrated patterns of racial/social/biological evolution?

  5. For me, although I find the history of this poem incredibly fascinating and I thank you for it, Frost is still a poet. Poetry means what the soul reading it needs it to mean; the mind and heart create the interpretation even if it might be a different interpretation each time said poem is read. Just because some didn't know the history of this poem doesn't mean they misinterpreted it, that there is a right or a wrong.      Having said that, Thomas decided to take a road he rarely traveled. One of bravery, one of sacrifice and although he died he made a difference.     Perhaps Frost wrote this poem with regret as his interpretation and with humor in the back of his mind, perhaps Thomas saw more than this and Frost's words helped him make his final decision but what neither saw coming was the prediction of Thomas' death in the poem.

  6. At least, as befitting of Frost, you need to speak more slowly, less rushed.
    His poem is a stroll. Slow and thoughtful.
    It was difficult to listen to your speed…….

  7. Then there is when which fork you take didn't matter.
    Baseball player Yogi Berra is reported, in giving directions to his house, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it". You see, the two forks converged again into the road leading to Berra's house. What a way with words he had.

  8. My own teacher presented this with the common error, which some of us found entirely baffling. Even as middle-schoolers, we immediately knew that this poem did not mean what the teacher supposed it had meant.

    I expect this misunderstanding is due to two issues:
    1) Attention spans diminish when a poem ends strongly.
    2) People spread that ending, out of context, serving to reinforce the lie.

  9. I am amazed that there is so much history behind this poem.

    This is the first time I've ever seen the original version of the "The Road Not Taken" and fortunately I stopped the video and read it before getting the author of this vlog's take on it.

    The scene is familiar to me as I'm a walker and I've done exactly what Frost describes countless times. I could have written a narrative description of that decision and thought process in less than fifteen minutes, and by the way mentioned everything that Frost said, except that mine wouldn't have rhymed and wouldn't have been as concise. Really his description isn't fanciful at all, it's actually pretty darned literal.

    So taken on the literal, superficial layer this poem is not much. It describes an ordinary experience that a huge number of people must share. But behind this ordinary reality, a deeper reading lies. The abbreviated lines that people are taught:

    "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference."

    Or variations on that. I'm believe this meaning was the author's intent: the purpose of the poem. Abbreviating it like that makes it obvious, even as it removes much of the misdirection and subtlety of the original. I like the original better, of course.

    Now given the context that I would have never have guessed this poem had, I suspect that the even deeper meanings, if any — what it meant to Robert Frost and Edward Thomas — would have differed for both of them and these meanings would have their roots in conversations that they had had, and are thus inaccessible to anyone else.

  10. Being angry at my English literature teacher from highschool for giving me nightmares.

  11. I always felt what this poem meant was; You have to make choises. Those choices are the road you walk. That road is your life. How we play out our choises. Those choises make all the difference in our lives. We need to believe we have done our best and not to bemoan the would have and could haves. Be at peace with the life you live. That's what it means to me at least. The beauty of poetry is we take away what we need to nourish our spirits and souls.
    The story behind the poem is good enough to make a movie from. Im a little suprised it hasn't been made really. It adds so many layers to words I have always loved. Thanks.

  12. "Every man thinks meaner of himself for not being a soldier" — Henry V

    "The coward dies many times before his death, the valiant taste of death but once." — Julius Caesar

    There is really no way a man of his age could have run from war. Imagine going home and seeing the families who lost sons and brothers in the war and knowing you skipped out on it. Further, as an upper class Brit, what would be say to all those of lower classes who died without even the right to vote objective war? (Britain didn't have universal male suffrage until 1916.)

    There are somethings your life is not worth.

  13. So, the poem is really about the phenomena of buyer's remorse.

  14. When we are at a place in our lives, we can't see how the small changes we make now will affect us. But many if not all of us can look back at our life and pinpoint a decision we made at the time that changed us.

  15. What I found out was poems are useless forms of communication.

  16. This poem might as well be about YouTube self development videos

  17. If he would have gone to the states the last lines would come true for him, he would have told the world how that made all the difference but in his heart he would have yearned for the battlefield, though himself a coward.

  18. I'm not sure either the 'contentment' or 'regret' interpretation is correct. I read 'and that made all the difference' as making the exact opposite point; that it made no difference whatsoever. I suppose you could say the fictional narrator in the poem maybe believes it made all the difference and is feeling either content or regret because of it, but the poem as a whole (or Frost) is making fun of dwelling on past arbitrary and minute choices because they made no difference anyway. As such it doesn't really matter if the narrator feels joy or regret about the choice; either way he's wrong. It's not called "the road not taken" because of an emphasis on regretting not taking it, it's called that for emphasis on pointlessly dwelling on what could have been (good or bad) if the road not taken had been taken.

    Or that's just my take on it anyway.

  19. People always take things out of context in order to support whatever false narrative they're trying to push.

  20. He sighs in sarcasm. Nothing he chose made any difference whatsoever. The meaningless of it all the other road would have lead to an identical tale told just some other place.
    Or perhaps he would have been shot in the chest on an american back street he decided to wander down.

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