Rant: The Road Less Traveled?! Context, people, CONTEXT!

This is a rant. So forgive me for putting aside my usual lovable self to be a horrible cranky pants.  I think I’d be forced to either quit writing or disown “The Road Not Taken” if I were Robert Frost. Not because I don’t like the poem–it’s a grand poem–but because everybody and their grandma keeps shitting on it with a smile by quoting that blasted “road less traveled” bit without bothering to read the rest of the poem.

I wish I had a dollar for every graduation speech, motivational pamphlet, card, or blog post that earnestly reprints this last bit of the poem:

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

 

Oh, the homegrown American spirit! Oh, non-conformity! Oh, independence! 

Only… not. Folks, the last part is a jab at how we recast our past decisions after the fact. This is what the speaker imagines himself saying “with a sigh/Somewhere ages and ages hence” even though the paths were actually “about the same.” Read the whole damn poem, and see that what Frost is doing is making fun of how we reframe an arbitrary decision (the implications of which we’ll never fully know) into a grand, pioneering act.

For the love of Frost, read the whole poem and stop quoting the last lines out of context. Please. Please. Please.

The Road Not Taken

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,
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.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

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.

 

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