Psychological Criticism Of “The Road Not Taken”
Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, explores the freedom of choice and allows for a deeper psychological interpretation. Through metaphors and analogies, the poem depicts two different roads. It permeates with underlying themes of identity, self-discovery, consciousness and individuality. The poem entices readers to look at the possibilities of following one’s own path in life instead of the path that everyone else follows. Essentially, Frost incites readers to develop a deeper psyche and consciousness, which allow them to move away from conformist ideals and fear of making unconventional decisions. Thus, although different meanings can be inferred from the poem, the author clearly shows how the power of choice and individual thinking can alter one’s decisions and path in life.
Written in first-person, the poem vividly describes the paths of two different roads. For instance, Frost described one road as “grassy and wanted wear”, but “the passing there had worn them really about the same.” Thus, according to the author, one road had not been traveled by any other travelers. Based on the absence of footprints on the road, the narrator perceived that the road was less traveled, and thus opted to take that path. Although he admits both roads seemed worn, he used his own free will and choice to decide which road to take. This can be view differently based on the psychological state of the person. Due to many societal expectations and pressures, many people think that by following the crowd, they will be headed in the right direction. Thus, their thoughts and psychological patterns are shaped by societal expectations.
Moreover, reason and choice are symbolic themes in the poem. The traveler consciously thought about the choices between the two roads and decided to make a decision based on his own reasons. The power to choose one’s life path is a freedom that some people never experience because they choose to conform to societal expectations. “The more choice people have, the greater their freedom and autonomy. Therefore, the more choice people have, the greater their well-being”. Thus, people who use their freedom of choice to make unconventional decisions are able to gain a sense of freedom and self-awareness. Thus, freedom of choice represents a higher level of critical thinking and individuality that allows the individual to pursue their goals despite society’s perceptions of the way one should live.
Also, he knew that traveling the road that was not traveled by a lot of people would make him an outcast. “And be one traveler, long I stood.” This shows how lonely it can be when one decides not to conform to the social standards set by society. Some people alter their psychological being to appeal to the masses, which confines them to making the same decisions as others, even if it is not the best choice for them. But by making the decision to follow one’s own path, the individual has a greater awareness of self and is not easily manipulated or pressured to follow the path of others. Thus, this message is deeply conveyed in the poem as the author shows the satisfaction in the end of having chosen the road less traveled.
Ultimately, the poem shows that the idea of being lonely may force many people to take other roads, which may differ from their individual choice. Also, the poem shows how people think and react in the midst of obstacles or road blocks. It also shows how second-guessing one’s choices can lead to regret. “I doubted if I should ever come back.” The thought of regret can sometimes keep people from moving forward because they will continue to look back and ponder over the decisions that they made. This can cause psychological and emotional issues of regret, doubt and fear, which may adversely affect the individual. Thus, the poem shows that making a definite decision regardless of how others may perceive it, will help to build better character and self-awareness and overall lead one on a healthy mental and spiritual path.
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