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What is the Extended Metaphor in 'The Road not Taken': Essay

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In life, taking the known route does not necessarily have the most beneficial ending- this is partially due to the fact that the unknown road provides options for personal growth and new experiences. This idea is conveyed throughout ​The Road not Taken​ and is specially reinforced in the last stanza. ​The Road Not Taken​ was written by Robert Frost in 1915. This poem functions as an extended metaphor about someone who is faced with a simple yet significant decision. The poet uses a range of poetic techniques to illuminate the protagonist's journey and how he has developed as a person.

This poetry essay delves into the profound layers of meaning embedded within Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," exploring how the poet's masterful use of language and metaphoric imagery invites readers to contemplate the complexities of decision-making, personal growth, and the unpredictable nature of life's journey.

The idea of life’s journey is strongly conveyed through the techniques of assonance, visual imagery, and metaphors. These all function in impactful yet different ways.

Assonance allows audiences to read the poem with an upbeat rhythm. Visual imagery creates a strong illustration in the reader's mind. And the use of metaphors allows readers to perceive things in their own way and use comparisons to understand what the poem is about.

Assonance allows the poem to be read in a rhythmic and upbeat voice This contrasts with the main idea of the poem: which is about personal decision-making in the context of what society thinks is conventional. As the narrator arrives at the fork in the road, the rhythm diverts the readers' attention to the protagonist’s point of decision on what ‘way’ to follow. The assonance is used to create a lyrical flow, which is in contrast with the initial indecision the protagonist feels.

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The poet’s use of visual imagery allows readers to feel a deeper connection to the protagonist's physical journey and become more immersed in the poem’s setting - for example, the imagery of the “yellow wood” conjures the scene. The use of the color yellow connotes feelings of warmth and happiness, symbolically this can mean that both roads will lead him to happiness and peace of mind. The two “roads” function to make the reader physically imagine the two choices he has. The setting in autumn symbolizes a time of change. This shows us that whatever road he chooses is going to end with something that differs from his day-to-day life. Visual imagery is a technique that Frost relied heavily on ​to paint a picture of the mysterious, inviting natural landscape.

The use of metaphors assists the reader to arrive at a deeper understanding of the character’s journey. The road not taken is an extended metaphor. Frost uses the roads as a way to convey to the audience that we all have to choose between two broad options. We can stick with the conventional path and do what social convention dictates. Alternatively, we can forge our own independent path. The metaphor of the two roads is repeated throughout the poem to create a very clear and easy-to-visualize comparison. The fork in the road symbolizes difficult and ​life-changing decisions that will determine the course of our lives. The image of ‘undergrowth’ is used to show that however far he can see he won't be able to see everything. It is used to show that, although Frost can try to see what's in his future, there will always be aspects of the future that are unknowable.

The tone has the power to manipulate and control how a poem is understood and expressed. The protagonist speaks with a sorrowful tone which forces the reader to grasp the reality of not being able to explore both paths - to choose one, is not to choose the other. The sorrowful tone projects the emotional understanding of having to give something up in order to take the path less known. Frost uses the first person to allow his point of view to stand out; it shows a ​reflective nature that emphasizes the internal drama of making difficult life choices.

Frost plays with the notion of time in his poem, bringing the reader with him as he undertakes his journey. He also uses the sense of time to show how hard it can be to make important life choices. At the start of the poem, Frost describes the choice in front of him, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”. He can’t foresee where either path will lead. He is sad that he has to choose between different possible futures.

Choosing one road will mean giving up the other. In the last stanza, Frost has come to the end of his journey and projects forward to imagine how he will speak about his choice many years in the future. He took the road less traveled, and in talking about his decision, he will see it as ‘bitter-sweet’. As he says, his decision “made all the difference”. But, ​the last line in the poem (“that has made all the difference”) is one that he “shall be telling … with a sigh.”

The poem is about life’s choices but it does not glorify making one choice over another. It tells us that life is too uncertain to make such simple assumptions. It attempts rather to deepen our experience about life choices, bringing us to understand that to choose something important, is to give up something else important - and the value of the thing given up is something we will never really know because we didn’t experience it. Even to take the path less chosen is to miss out on something. And that makes our choices - even our best choices - something to recall with a sense of loss.

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