In “The Road Not Taken,” Frost opens the poem in the first stanza with an apology for not being able to travel both roads. The tone of the apology suggests it is a prelude for a wise life lesson. By stanza two, the descriptive sight word “grassy” is used as a symbol to describe a path—too which the speaker ends up walking. This makes the reader believe that this path leads to something promising. The word grassy in literature is symbolic for spring, renewal, a fresh start; Frost makes it a point to mention that both paths lay with leaves, and that years later in upon reflection by poem, he sighs in regret about the same path he took in life:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The speaker in “Fire and Ice,” simply explains the in life you can live it in two ways. The word fire is used as a symbol that represents passion. Ice represents death, stillness and the bitter cold. If he were to die, from his perception and understanding from what he has learned from people, he’d rather the world die with people being passionate in their desires. On line four he states:
I hold with those who favor fire.
The speaker would rather select purpose over a lack for nothing else but death. He has experienced the good and bad in life—two paths.
In “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the speaker is stranded in a familiar, but vague area. He is in a dark place in a metaphoric and literal sense. The descriptive sight words used in the poem mirror his emotions and feelings, suggesting loneliness. But the speaker convinces himself that he will not be there in the woods in winter—away from others. He is on a path but there is not another one available—but his decision to not die in the woods may very well be a different kind of path—a second chance at life. In the last stanza, he emphasizes:
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, 15
And miles to go before I sleep.
Walt Whitman’s message in Leaves of Grass differs from all the others. His bright vision pulls the reader into his writing style. The tone is appealing. He is in love and free with nature. He has experienced the ugly, dark paths and is happy to encourage with a breath of fresh air. Here, Whitman has a series of questions to prompt the reader, to acknowledge the simple things in life which are easily ignored:
Have you reckon’d a thousand acres much? Have you reckon’d the earth much?
Have you practis’d so long to learn to read?
Have you felt so proud to get at the meaning of poems?
Both American poets have used nature, imagery and metaphors for the reader to relate with the theme. These findings were investigated and discovered by a critical literary analysis performed. As mentioned, sight words, similes and metaphors were used. It is the responsibility of the reader to critically think about what he/she is reading, line by line, to eventually arise to the conclusion learned as follows: Life offers two paths; be passionate with your purpose. Frost lists nature as a subtle echo, mirroring the deciding factor of life. For Whitman, man and nature together is a beautiful harmony.