“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — / I took the one less traveled by, / And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is a lyrical poem about the decisions that one must make in life. When a man approaches a fork in the road on which he is traveling, he must choose which path to take. The choice that he makes, as with any choices made in life, affects him in a way that “has made all the difference . Thematically, the poem argues that no matter how small a decision is, that decision will affect a person’s life forever.
“The Road Not Taken” is told as a first-person narrative. The narrator is looking back on the decisions that have affected him. The decision that is illustrated in the poem occurred at a much earlier point in the narrator’s life. It would be possible for a reader to be drawn into the poem to such a degree that the reader would become the narrator. Everyone has made decisions, and since it is the purpose of this poem to discuss and address those decisions, it would be easy to look beyond the narrator and see oneself. The word choice used in the poem very effectively portrays the speaker. The language used is very simple, almost as if the narrator is not speaking, but thinking, for the language of thoughts tends to be simple without using words that require a dictionary to define. The simple, almost quiet and seducing tone acts to draw the reader into the poem allowing the reader to become the narrator.
Throughout the poem, Frost uses images that could be interpreted as either quite simple and very specific or incredibly involved and extremely general. For example, by interpreting images such as “Two roads… in a yello…
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…ming lines do not necessarily contain the same number of syllables. This choice by Frost pulls the reader into the poem, but maintains the thought-like atmosphere as the narrator looks back unto his life at the decisions that he made and their results.
In his perhaps best known poem, Frost recognizes something that everyone should realize. The simple picture of a man deciding which path to follow is suddenly changed into a description of life by the mastery of Frost’s poetic hand. No matter how small a decision appears to be at the time that it is made, that decision will affect a person’s life forever, or as Frost puts it, each and every choice will make “all the difference.”
Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken.” The North Introduction To Literature. 6th ed. Eds. Carl E.Bain, Jerome Beaty, and J. Paul Hunter. New York: W.W Norton, 1995. 1097.
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – Biblical Reference in The Clerk’s Tale
Biblical Reference in The Clerk’s Tale
In 1921, Vance Palmer, the famous Australian author and poet, noted, in his essay titled “On Boundaries”, that “it is the business of thought to define things, to find the boundaries; thought, indeed, is a ceaseless process of definition” (Palmer 134). As Palmer noted, humans, by their very nature, attempt to define all things. But, more than that, we attempt to redefine subjects and ideas that have already been defined so that we can better understand what they mean, where we came from, and, perhaps most importantly of all, who we are. Writers, from the beginning of the written word through the present, have, almost in their entirety, strived to cast a new light on subjects that were previously thought to have been completely understood. George Orwell’s Animal Farm, Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, and William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing are only a few examples of the thousands of books where authors have strived to redefine the defined. Just like these authors, Geoffrey Chaucer, in his Canterbury Tales, succeeded in redefining an idea that, even into the present but most certainly in Chaucer’s era, was thought to be completely understood. More specifically, using dozens of biblical references in The Clerk’s Tale, Chaucer redefined the relationship between humanity and the Christian God and between woman and man.
Much of the academic criticism of The Clerk’s Tale seems to have focused on the idea of Griselda representing either the Virgin Mary or Job, and Walter representing God. James Wimsatt, in his essay titled “The Blessed Virgin and the Two Coronations of Griselda”, perhaps stated this type of criticism best when he wrote:
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…ury Tales: Nine Tales and the General Prologue. Ed. V.A. Kolve.
New York: W. W. Norton