Short Story vs Poem
A short story and poem, no matter how structurally different are two literary pieces where a rich story is embedded. Readers are drawn towards these scripts by means of rhythm (poem), characterization, or a fictional setting in their respective narratives. However, the mere script would not make it entertaining enough. It would depend on the imagination of the readers as they are reading the literary script.
Every reader has their own way of visualizing the descriptions and symbolism used by the author. The two literary pieces, “The Road Not Taken” which is a poem and the short story “Used to Live Here Once” are sharing the same theme, which is, every person’s journey is greatly governed by their decisions, and no matter how many paths there maybe, it is still the person who determines the ending of his or her journey. On the other hand, the theme unfolded differently in these two literary pieces.
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First, Robert Frost in his “The Road Not Taken” hinted in his poem that the character would be going through a journey.
And since he used the first person character, which was “I” it was easier to imagine him as the one who is going through the journey. On the contrary, the short story “Used to live Here Once” was written in third person, or “she”. But based on the author’s presentation, I readily imagined an alone woman as the character in the story. I was able to confirm this, because of a certain part in the story where the woman was talking to animals as she was walking like “Out of my way, all you foxes, owls, and beetles”. Because of this characterization, I easily felt solitude in the story.
The part where the woman was depicted to be walking uphill is a representation of her struggles in her journey. It is literally hard to walk in an uphill, and considering the woman’s age, it would be even more exhausting for her to reach her destination. This part merely suggests the hard life that the woman is currently living. It is inevitable for the reader to really feel pity over the character. “Used to Live Here Once” used the third person, but either way, it was still able to present solitude in its own distinct way.
Some lines that strongly suggest solitude are “She came to the worn steps” and “She was standing by the river”. Basically, the differences in the kind of solitude in the literary pieces were greatly affected by the choices that the character made. A story’s setting also affects the kind of engagement that the readers will have with the story. An illustration would be the title of the Road Not Taken. From the title itself, the reader can already sense the conflict in the poem. In fact, the first line of the poem “two roads diverged in yellow wood” made me contemplate as a reader where the two roads could possibly lead me.
Moreover, the first person narrative of the poem makes it easier for a reader like me to relate to it, to put myself into the story and character because of the more personal approach. Frost’s writing allows the reader to take his perspective on things, for instance his description of a certain path “where it bent in the undergrowth” and “grassy and wanted wear”. These descriptions made it clear enough for the readers that there are two distinct paths but are both leading to the same destination. Another interpretation for this is a person’s attachment to something that is special for him.
Usually when presented with two paths, an individual would choose to take the path less traveled, but in this poem Frost does not give us this option. It is clear that both paths have the same amount of wear. Poetry is definitely filled with symbolisms since it is one of its features. For example, the color yellow could mean an aging or something that is starting to lose its value. Another interpretation could also be a reference to the character of Dorothy of the “Wizard of Oz”, because the yellow brick road there signified the beginning of her adventures, and she started clueless.
Apparently, the “two roads” in the story could mean a dilemma or two conflicting ideas that a person is dealing with. This could refer to any choice that the person is trying to make. Based on the poem, I can feel that Frost is trying to imply that the person is torn between two opportunities that he is facing. Further, there is another symbolism used to describe the two paths which is “in leaves no step had trodden black”. Black here could mean death, because of the context of the sentence where it was used. As the poem progresses, it was revealed that there was a more enticing ath for the character which was “grassy and seemingly vibrant”, but doesn’t guarantee any certainty. Because of this, the other path is considered to be more appealing because it is safe and certain. But, the character in the poem was also bothered by the fact that people who passed by that path never came back. A decision was gradually revealed in the course of the poem, quite creatively. Before giving away the decision readily, the author presented a situation where the character was in front of the woods where he stayed “on the first for another day. The author was able to creatively emphasize that it was the decision that the decision made was more inclined on the uncertain path, which was definitely more exciting. The ironic tone is set in this poem by this statement “I shall be telling this with a sigh / Somewhere ages and ages hence. ” This statement basically means that the writer anticipates dishonesty in his future. The type of dishonesty that I believe the writer is talking about is when he tells this story later in life.
He will basically tell people that he choose the path that was less traveled and stuck to it when in fact he had no choice in the matter. Even though he will tell people this statement, he really does not believe it himself because he will remember that neither path was distinguishable from each other. Even though this poem has an ironic tone there is also an undeniable sense of remorse. The speaker knows that he will second-guess himself somewhere down the line or at least wonder what is irreversibly lost.
The nature of this decision is such that there is no right path. It is just the chosen path and the other path. The point of the poem is not to key in on the wrong decisions but moments of the decision themselves. These moments mark the passing of an individual’s life. The second literary piece, “Used to Live Here Once” was less challenging and interesting for me, because there was not much of conflict in the plot. However, it is very predictable for me to feel pity since the author was able to successfully create a sad feeling in his piece.
Further, the image of a woman “standing by the river” made me think that she might have been there for a long time already, and instead of appreciating the river; she already forgot how to appreciate any amount of beauty. I am personally not a fan of sad stories, but this specific story was able to capture my heart in that part when the woman returned to her old home. Further, the narrative style used to present the plot of the story was in third person, thus it might it hard for me to build a certain personal connection with the woman in the story.
There was actually one line in the poem that seemed really awkward for me “It was strange to see a car standing in front of it”, since it did not reveal anything about the personality or feelings of the character. I believe that this line was just a mere observation of the writer. Despite the first person perspective, it is also very likely that the author is still writing about her personal experiences, and hiding its sensitivity by means of a third person narrative. According to Elizabeth Able, the literary pieces of Jean Rhys are mostly “repetitive narratives and are variations of themes of failure and rejection” (Abel, 1979).
Words like “shyly” can be a concrete proof of why Abel considers Rhys as someone who has been writing out of the feeling of rejection. The use of symbolism in the story also helped me to easily relate to it on a more personal level. As we all know, river has long been known as the symbol of life, and as the story presented, the woman just kept on staring on the river. At the end of the story, the author already hinted that the woman died. With this, I believe that the woman’s lingering way of looking at the river was already the symbolism of the reflection that she made about her life.
The author also made mention of a road, which was suddenly wider or “much wider than it used to be”, having the context of the woman’s struggle, it represents the woman’s perspective about life, which she viewed in a broader a sense. At this point, the author used another color symbolism, which was blue, “This was a fine blue day. ” As we all know, blue is a color of tranquility, which means the woman has finally found her peace. Although the story is generally written in third person, there was a certain part wherein the woman was talking to some kids, which was written in first person.
This was a very effective scene because of the color symbolisms used by the author. As a matter of fact, color symbolism was mainly the reason why any reader would feel a sense of engagement in Rhy’s story. The journeys presented in the two literary pieces are different, but they all evolved around solitude. First, the Road Not Taken was more on the solidarity of choosing the path to take. Second the Used to Live Her Once, from the title itself tells of a life of a woman who has already passed. The end point is that, each of these stories has their own valuable lesson to share to the readers.