By Ari Ross
When we all stopped in the middle of the Waveny running trails and McAttaq said “You guys are blocking me! I’m trying to take a picture of this metaphor,” we all turned around to see that the path we were standing on split into two new paths that ran deeper into the woods.
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,/and sorry I could not travel both/And be one traveler,” Mr. McAteer recited as we all laughed to ourselves after understanding what the hell he was actually talking about (something we all often do once we experience a rare moment like that).
I think we all had some kind of idea of what The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost was about – be unique! don’t follow the norm! – a hipster mantra. But, as Mr. McAteer told us, that’s not really what the poem is about. In fact, we should’ve taken the “don’t do what other people do!” advice when we each came up with our conclusions about the meaning of the poem.
In fact,The Road Not Taken is not about the choice you made but rather about the choice you didn’t make – just look at the title! Frost says, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -/I took the one less traveled by,/and that has made all the difference.” This poem is actually about the fact that he made a choice to choose one path and not the other and he is now a different man than the one he would’ve been if he had chosen the other path. It’s about his life choices – what would he be like if he had decided to do anything differently?
So, while we all stood there with our minds reeling and invisible texts flew above our heads and leaves changed colors and wished they were back to green, we learned a couple things.
- Every part of a poem is important to its understanding. As Mr. McAteer said, Frost didn’t just assign arbitrary line breaks. He didn’t need to cut a line off to force a rhyme to come into place or something. The title, the word choice, the structure, they all contribute to the purpose of the poem.
- We all are going to make choices and ignore other ones. And we are going to end up a certain way because of them.
- Mr. McAteer is the most prolific metaphor photographer of this century.