Compare and Contrast: If & The Road Not Taken

Choices, a simple decision can change the entire course of your life. Our lives are like forest trails splitting into more directions every moment we are faced with a new decision, either making our hike more retched and muddy or a relaxing downhill. This is how our life goes, until we reach the end, we don’t know exactly when, it all depends on what choices we make. If by Rudyard Kipling and The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost demonstrate in two different perspectives the struggles and the merits of making choices as well as other elements in life.

In The Road Not Taken, the narrator of the poem is walking on a path and the road in front of him/her is split into two separate paths (symbolizing two choices that could change the course of their life), something in his/her life is changing and he is forced to choose. The narrator doesn’t know whats in store for either of them, “And looked down one as far as I could, to where it bent in the undergrowth” (“The Road Not Taken”, Line 4-5). In If, the narrator is telling his son how he should act so he can make to become a great man in the future. The son has a general idea of what he should expect unlike the narrator in The Road Not Taken, “With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run, yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, and – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!” (“If“, Line 29-32)

Another similarity between these poems is how they show elements of expectations, If is more about gender expectations while The Road Not Taken is about life’s expectations. If’s entire poem is about what someone expects in a ‘great man’, being strong and courageous but also humble and intelligent. It’s sort of like a phenomenon, very few people can keep that balance. Also, this poem is telling the son that if he cannot do all of things listed, he will not be a man and I believe that puts a lot of pressure on him, especially because this is his own father addressing it. On the other hand, in The Road Not Taken the narrator is given the pressure of life’s expectations. They are halted by a split in the path, one traveled by many and the other, not so much. After days of switching between the two the narrator finally decides to take the path less traveled and is completely fine with it. The path that was less traveled symbolizes uniqueness and how she didn’t choose what everyone else chose. For example, everyone was going to university and you decided to instead go to art school, you’re choosing the path you want to go through, not being pressured into doing the social standard.

Even though in The Road Not Taken the central theme is choice, in If it is not. There are elements of it, but the main theme of If is the value of masculinity and stoicism. Stoicism is a way of thinking in which you accept what is happening without showing displeasure nor pleasure. This way of thinking originated from the philosophy of the Stoics from the time of Ancient Greece. There are many lines throughout the poem that show stoicism, “Or, being hated don’t give way to hating.” (“If“, Line 7). Masculinity is another theme, this entire poem centers around the idea of how to become and act like a “man”. This branches out into ideas of pressure and gender expectations referring to the last paragraph, and if the son doesn’t do all the things listed within the poem, he will not be a man, a huge hit on his ego.

If is specifically is narrated by a father who is addressing it to his son, while The Road Not Taken can be addressed to anyone and can be relatable. The Road Not Taken focuses more on important life changing decisions. Everyone has to go through choices, no one can go through life without making a decision whether that be choosing between white or whole wheat bread or choosing which university to apply to. Even though the paths may look the same, they may lead to two completely different outcomes, “Had worn them really about the same.” (“The Road Not Taken“, Line 10). But in the end, you’re going to have to decide and you can’t turn back, you may want to stick with the social norm, or maybe like the main character you’d rather be your own person and choose the unique route, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” (“The Road Not Taken“, Line 18 – 20)

Though If is more directed towards males and talks about gender expectations, and The Road Not Taken focuses more on the difficulties of important decisions and ignoring social expectations, these two poems address expectations as a whole as well as the importance of choice and how it could impact your life, whether that be choosing if you want to become a great man or choosing the path that no one else has every stepped into. Choices drive our life, but it is only the steering wheel, and you are the driver, you decide which turns to make.

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