We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
People often think the title is "The Road Less Traveled." Nope. Not a poem about how special we want to feel. Some of Frost's poems became so popular that they became cliches. The cranky SOB was a skilled marketer of his image, too. Anyway, I posted this poem today to note the ambiguity here: "the passing there had worn them really about the same." A random choice for a grassy path. Fate. Hard to know what metaphysical poets are really up to: What Gives Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” Its Power?
The poem isn’t a salute to can-do individualism; it’s a commentary on the self-deception we practice when constructing the story of our own lives. “The Road Not Taken” may be, as the critic Frank Lentricchia memorably put it, “the best example in all of American poetry of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.” But we could go further: It may be the best example in all of American culture of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
In this it strongly resembles its creator...
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.
I liked the last part of the article that discusses how--because so many people read the poem "incorectly"--that it may indeed have an ambiguity that Frost didn't intend. In other words, although Frost didn't mean to insert it, the praise of individualism somehow comes through anyway. (I mean, really, which group of readers is the more credulous: a bunch of groupthinking academics or the thousands of readers from random walks of life reading the poem years detached from its original context?)
I think about that often when I look at older classic movies. Modern audiences see connections or foreshadowing or symbols that the makers--especially those working within the timelines and budgets of the studio system--couldn't possibly have had the time to build in.
I believe the real meaning resides with the author, not the reader, in contrast to the academic fashions such as Deconstructionism. The author may not express his meaning well, or people may like another idea so much that they see what he did not intend, as apparently has happened with this poem. Yet I cannot be brought to say that what the poem means has changed thereby. As attractive as the idea sounds at first - it is democratic, non-elitist, empowering - I think it leads very quickly to roads of madness, where "Silent Night" is no longer about the birth of Jesus, or Hamlet prefigures Gatsby's green light and The American Dream, just because we want them to.
Assistant Village Idiot
I think it is lovely and memorable, thus sticks in people's head. That is the most important thing.
When I was a youngster in the early 70's and singing in a high school choir,we had the pleasure of composer Randall Thompson conducting us in concert with a few of his original works, two of which were set to "Two Roads" and "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening", repsectively. I agree with your sentiments. Cheers!
I was chatting with friends recently about reasons we broke up with boyfriends and girlfriends in our younger days, and one said he knew it was over with his girlfriend when she couldn’t see that this wasn’t about going your own way and doing your own thing.