Guest Author - Sheena Esther Janakie
Robert Frost is one of America’s very well-known poets. Unlike many poets who are recognized for their worth after their death, Frost was recognized and acclaimed while he was alive, as the four Pulitzer Prizes he was awarded during his life testify.
Frost’s poems often deal with, or rather describe, rural life in New England. They are simple to read and easy to understand. For this reason, many of Frost’s poems are prescribed as lessons for children to read in schools not only in America but all over the world. But for all their simplicity, most of Frost’s poems have profound underlying meanings in them. This is the reason why his works command a great deal of respect in the Poetic world.
Many of us might be familiar with the book of Proverbs in the Bible. Often when one reads the book of Proverbs, one feels that the author of the book is stating the obvious. But a deeper look at each verse will elucidate the wealth of meaning packed into those small verses. Many of Frost’s poems are like that. He very often describes the everyday activities in rural New England and yet, if one were but to cast a second and more detailed glance at the seemingly simple poems, one can uncover the keen insight that Frost displays in many matters of human nature.
Most of his poems are subtle commentaries on the various characteristic traits that many of us human beings possess. Having said that, it must also be said that though Frost, in his characteristically simply style, brings to light the many vagaries of human nature, he does not really condemn anyone for displaying these characteristics. In fact he places himself in many of his poems, showing that he too is susceptible to the myriad human emotions he sets out to show the world.
One of his very famous poems is “The Road Not Taken”. In this poem, Frost deals with the choices a person is presented in life and what the outcome of our choices is.
On the first glance, it is a poem about a man, probably the poet, who stands at a crossroads debating as to which road to take. He stands debating for a while, and then he chooses to take the path less traveled by, thinking that he might take the other path some other day, full knowing that that day may never come as his path might take him to a point where he cannot return to try the other road. The poem concludes with the man reflecting that some day he will be telling someone, presumably his children or grandchildren, about this day when he made the choice to follow this road.
On closer analysis, Frost is talking not just about two roads, but about each and every choice we make as individuals in this life. In every situation, we have two choices. What we choose determines our future, step by step. The second verse tells us that we ultimately end up choosing one or the other of the choices, like numerous people before us who have faced similar choices, some reacting like we did, and others reacting not like us.
The third verse tells us that though both choices may seem equally good or equally bad, our choosing of one will effectually cancel out our shot at choosing the other. Every choice we make leads us relentlessly to another set of choices and so on, and there is almost no chance of us getting back to where we started to see what the outcome would be if we tried the other choice.
The fourth verse sums it all up to say that every choice we make leads us closer and closer to what our life will finally look and be like. We might, like the poet, one day reflect upon all the choices we made throughout life to get a better understanding of what we are and who we are.
This poem is a profound yet simple statement on one of life’s inevitable occurrences. There might just be one other person who can have clothed these similar thoughts in the most beautiful way possible – the great Charles Dickens. In one of my favorite quotes from his wonderful book Great Expectations, he writes about life’s choices in this way: “Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”