"The Road Not Taken" is a poem written by American poet Robert Frost in 1916. The title of the poem is often misremembered as "The Road Less Traveled," based on a phrase from the penultimate line. First published Frost's collection Mountain Interval, it is the only poem the author published entirely in italics, a point that is often debated by literary critics.
One of the foundational texts of American literature, "The Road Not Taken" is a staple of secondary and tertiary education courses and consistently ranks in the top five greatest American poems, often holding the first position on such lists. It is also regularly referenced throughout pop culture, being cited in everything from Melissa Etheridge album titles to episodes of Battlestar Galactica.
Although commonly interpreted to be a poem about the importance of individualism and living a free-spirited
lifestyle, Frost himself confirmed – and virtually all literary critics agree – that "The Road
Not Taken" is, in reality, an ironic poem about the irrationality of regret and the rationalizing of
decisions. When the poem is read carefully, it becomes clear that it is not about taking "the road
less traveled" – which is clearly impossible, as Frost makes it clear that both roads are equal
and untouched – and instead is about how our choices make little difference in life, as the outcomes
can never be known regardless of which road you travel down.
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