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A Comparison of The Road not Taken and A Worn Path

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“The Road not Taken” is a tricky poem written by Robert Frost. The narrator reaches a fork of the road and is forced to make a decision on which one to follow. He finally takes the one less travelled by. This gives us the two dimensions of the title. The road less travelled by is the road not taken by many. Again, the title could mean the other road that the narrator did not choose. It was the road not taken. “A worn path,” is a heartbreaking short story written by Eudora Welty. The story is about an old Afro-American woman. In the story the heroic Phoenix makes a treacherous and exhausting trip to town to get medicine for her grandson. These two articles are about two characters travelling and typically, they have comparable aspects as well as contrasting aspects, Welty, (2001).

Both works have characters making a journey. In the poem, the narrator has been traveling and has reached a point where the road divides. The narrator is a traveler. Likewise, in the short story, the main character is in a trip to town. She is travelling from home through the pines up the hill and down the valley through the oaks, Ardolino, (1976). In both the poem and the story, the characters are walking.

For the two articles, there are decisions to be made. The narrator in Frost’s, “The road not taken,” is bound to make a decision on which road to take, Ardolino, (1976). The road diverged in yellow wood and the Narrator cant travel on both. He takes time to keenly analyze the two roads. He is compelled to choose the one that was less travelled by. This decision, he says, has brought a difference.

 In the short story, “A worn path,” Phoenix is very clear and straight forward in her decisions. She has a clear mind about her intent, answers and actions. When the black dog comes she hits him without hesitation. When a white man appears, he wants to convince her to go back home. The man constantly tried to discourage her from continuing her journey. This shows that she is firm in her decision. He even points a gun at her, but Phoenix decides not to.

 Her clarity in decision making is further shown when asked how old she was, she promptly chooses not to mention. She says that there is not telling. Moreover, she is getting many discouraging challenges which would have made her go stay back but she decides to persistently continue her journey.

Symbolism is well used in both cases. However, there is more use of symbolism in Welty’s work than in Frost’s. The yellow wood in the poem symbolizes state of harmony as yellow color is related to harmony. It is apparent that the narrator has all along been in peace until when he reaches the fork, the only challenge. The road beyond the bend may represent the future or the unknown, neither of which can be perceived. ‘Sigh’ can indicate relief or happiness, or it can indicate regret or sorrow. The interpretation of its meaning is up to the reader. The entire poem also is symbolic of the journey one takes in life that involves decision making. It reaches a point in life when choices have to be made from alternatives availed.

In Welty’s, “A worn path,” the name given to the main character is symbolic. Phoenix is a mythical sacred bird of the ancient Egyptians. The bird was said to have come out of Arabia every 500 years to Heliopolis where it burned on alter and then rose from its ashes when young and so beautiful. The character’s description is typical of phoenix bird. She is old and has wrinkly skin with golden color running beneath it. She was on a trip to the city to look for medicine for her grandson who represents a young phoenix (new phoenix).

The title symbolizes the age of the main character. She is old and the title is “A worn path.” ‘Worn’ shows her old age. She has walked through the evergreen pine woods which symbolize her lost youth while walking through the oak trees symbolizes the close ending of her life. In her trip there are many deterrents including thorns, heavy bush, and the dog and wild animals which symbolize the hurdles one has to face in life. Her trip was a journey one makes as long as one lives.

The two works also exhibit related themes. The main theme in both is about the journey of life. The poet in the poem has used a familiar situation of a traveler by a road that forks into two. Both the roads seem to be fairly good but he decides to follow the less-trodden and unusual path which makes difference. At the same time, it was not so easy for him to choose the road that is better, in fact at some point he wanted to travel on both but when he chooses one, he doesn’t evince any pride or satisfaction about his choice. This is an exact situation one normally faces in life (The journey of life). One reaches a point of diverged options and must choose one.

Other themes represented in the poem include: individualism, when the narrator decides to take his own way. He took “the road less travelled,” (line 19), which means he never wanted things that were shared among many. Theme of caution is also evident when the narrator takes time to choose. He says, “Long I stood and looked down one as far as I could,” (Lines 3-4). Commitment is also show since the narrator has shown any sign of second thoughts.

In the short story, the theme of life journey is also depicted. The main character Phoenix is making a trip. This is a life trip. As has been symbolically derived by her name, Phoenix is going to renew her life by going to get the medicine for her grandson (the new Phoenix). That is how phoenix the mythical bird was. As earlier shown, going through the evergreen pine woods show her youth which ends at the peak of the hill. Going down the hill along oak trees is the second phase of life as one approaches the end. In her journey, Phoenix encounters many challenges that include thorns, wild life tiresome distance among others. These challenges depict the hurdles one should jump in life. It is not smooth all along.

Other themes in the story include: endurance and persistence. The old Phoenix is making a trip which she apparently has been making often. The distance between town and home is far. She also encounters scary and discouraging obstacles. At a point she is being pressurized to go back by a white man. In spite of all these, she endures and persistently keeps going. Race and racism is also show. Phoenix is an African-American. She is depicted as uneducated and somehow with inadequacies. She meets a white man who is shown as educated and willing to help, but still, he is demeaning to the old woman.

Another similarity is the setting and scenes of the articles. They have both been established in a road setting where the characters are walking.

For the two articles, there are several prominent contrasts. Theses include structure and stylistic devices employed.

Structurally the two works are different. “The Road not taken” is a poem while “A worn path” is a short story. This brings the major difference. The poem has four stanzas each of five lines. Each of the stanzas has a particular level of message to be delivered. On the other hand, “A worn path” is short story which comprises of several paragraphs. It is obviously longer than the poem.

The poem is less descriptive than the short story. It only gives us a shallow description of the roads and the scene.  He says that the roads diverged. He says the road he took was grassy. During that morning, leaves lay on both the roads. The reader does not get a lot of information about the narrator and the scene as compared to how Welty was describing in her work.

 As compared to the short story, Welty is very descriptive about the characters, the scenes and the events. She elaborately describes Phoenix: her age, dressing, the way she walked and general appearance. “she was very old and small and she walked slowly in the dark pine shadows, moving a little from side to side in her steps, with the balanced heaviness and lightness of a pendulum in a grandfather clock,…she wore a dark stripped dress reaching down to her shoe tops, and an equally long apron of bleached sugar sacks, with full pocket: all neat and tidy, but every time she took a step she might have fallen over her shoelaces, which dragged from her unlaced shoe..her eyes were blue with age”, Welty, (2008).  

In describing the scene, Welty writes, “… the woods were deep and still. The sun made the pine needles almost too bright to look at, up where the wind rocked. The cones dropped as light as feathers. Down in the hollow was the mourning dove – it was not too late for him.” The writer describes how Phoenix acts, her encounter with the man and her behavior in the hospital. The reader can easily visualize everything basing on the elaborate descriptions given by Welty.

The two writers used impeccable styles in their work.

Frost has used a perfect rhyme scheme in the poem. The scheme is as follows: in stanza one Abaab, stanza two – cdccd, stanza three – efeef and stanza four – ghggh. All of the end rhymes are masculine since one of them consists of a single syllable.

The poet has also used personification. In saying that the road has a ‘claim,’ (line7), he has given the road trait of a human being. In line 9, of the word ‘wanted’ was used to mean desire, and then this is personification. However, if it was used to mean lacked, then it is not personification, Saunders, Robert.

Imagery style is also shown. Use of such words as; ‘yellow wood’, ‘grassy’, and ‘two roads diverged’, help to vividly bring an image in readers mind. One can easily imagine a road-fork covered with autumn-yellow leaves, surrounded by a lush forest atmosphere, set in an early morning. It is easy to visualize the traveler with a quizzed face deeply thinking about which road to take.

The tone in the poem can be taken as ‘glad’ or ‘sad’ depending on what one takes the word ‘sigh’ to mean. Of it ‘sigh’ was used to mean satisfaction then the tone is glad, but if it means regret, the tone is sad, Ardolino.

In the short story imagery is also depicted in the manner the writer has give the various descriptions of the characters, the scene and actions. The tone is sympathetic. The old woman is presented as being poor. She is making a long trip that apparently she has been making numerous times (till the path is worn). She is going to town to get medicine for her grandson who swallowed a lye long time ago and is not healing. The aged woman is going through a testing moment in the entire trip thus one can really sympathize with her.

To conclude, it is very clear that the Welty’s and Frost’s work have several similarities and differences. They exhibit remarkable themes that when properly extracted, one can make a tremendous change in life. It is obvious that a poem and a short story are structurally different but the setting and main message in both are almost similar, Donlan.

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