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From The Reader Bookshelf… The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Written by Maisie Jeynes, 18th November 2021

As part of our ongoing work around The Reader Bookshelf, we've asked staff to share their thoughts about some of the inspirational texts in the collection.

This week, The Reader's Special Projects Manager, Lizzie Murray, discusses The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.


Words by Lizzie Murray

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

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, is a poem I can really relate to.  It speaks to a deep seated fear I have of missing out, a fear so prevalent in our society it has its own acronym. The fear that you might make the wrong decision, take a wrong turn, choose the wrong door (yes, it's possible I've watched Labyrinth too many times, RIP David).

On first reading, the poem reinforced this idea I had about making the 'right' decision. It ends:

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

But on re-reading, I kept being pulled back to the middle of the poem, where Frost hints that perhaps there's less in it:

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.

Does it matter, then, which path is taken?  Adventure lies ahead in either direction, surely?  And if the past year has taught us anything, it's that we have only so much power over the future.  This makes the last lines feel like more of a gentle ribbing, to me, a tease about our own pride when we think that our fortunes have been all our own making.  For those of us inclined towards controlling outcomes, there's a real relief in accepting that we can only foresee so much, that sometimes you've just got to pick a path and enjoy kicking up the leaves. ​


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