Did You Miss The Point of Robert Frost’s Most Famous Poem?

‘The Road Not Taken’ just might be the most commonly misunderstood poem of all time.

Benya Clark
4 min readNov 20, 2022


Photo by Beth Macdonald on Unsplash

A Misunderstood Poem

Robert Frost was one of the most popular poets of all time, and I think that it’s fair to say his most famous and well-beloved poem was “The Road Not Taken.”

Everyone, even those with no interest in poetry whatsoever, will recognize the final lines:

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

These lines are emblematic of rugged American individualism. We don’t follow the beaten trail; we strike out on our own, blaze a path, and embrace our uniqueness.

You’ll see these lines in everything from motivational posters to email signatures. Millions of people have found inspiration from them, quoting the poem like a mantra as they head off into the metaphorical wilderness.

There’s just one problem: This interpretation is all wrong.

Robert Frost was not praising the idea of taking the “less traveled” path. He was making fun of indecision. This becomes obvious when we read the entire poem.

The poem, which Frost wrote in 1915, is now in the public domain, so I’ll reproduce it in full:

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

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 kept 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.



Benya Clark

I’m a lawyer turned writer from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, and more. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at exploringsobriety.com.