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April 16, 2006

Making Choices: The Road Theme Revisited

If you follow current events in pop-culture, you can see choices all around us. Katie Couric has made her choice to leave one successful job--her morning show--to try on another as chief anchor for CBS. In the same regard, Meredith Vieira chose to leave her successful television job--The View--to replace Katie's post on the morning show. Some choices our parents or guardians made for us, like whether we would celebrate Passover (if your family is of one religious tradition) or Palm Sunday (if your family is of another). Other choices are cost dependent and, once you begin to earn your own money, you have the financial freedom to buy, say, a vintage Kenny Rogers LP or a collector's edition Red Hot Chilli Peppers CD. Choices are all around us and they determine our every move. Recently, with the newly released translation of the Gospel of Judas, people have begun to revisit a very old agument that wonders whether the infamous "Judas"--the betraying character of the Christian religious tradition--actually had a choice, perhaps even asked, in doing what he did (the free will theory) or whether or not he was predestined--like a robot--to do what he did (the divine will theory) . . .

. . . But such topical decisions aren't the only way we choose or how choices affect our lives. Earlier in the semester we looked at poet Robert Frost's "Road Not Taken" and the subject of choice, free will, personal responsibility and other fun topics became part of the discourse of this year's class. All the writing students did a wonderful job reponding to the Frost poetry both for the poem just mentioned (HERE) and for "Fire and Ice" (HERE).

Some students did something different with that subject material. Rather than reflecting only on their own lives, they used the techniques of comparison to tie in the themes of "Road Not Taken" with films shown during the course of semester, e.g. Generation '89 and Crash. Kashiff and Ali cleverly weaved in the analogies from "Road Not Taken" as a point of discussion.

Any synopses by me would only steal their sunshine so I leave you now with their own work, intact, below where the comments generally go. Please feel free to leave your own remarks to efforts in the comment box.



Posted by lhobbs at April 16, 2006 07:39 PM

Readers' Comments:

The Path of Contemplation versus the Path of Quick Decisions

During life, a person is faced with many different choices, some which will forever alter the person's life. Once the decision has been made, there is no going back. The speaker in Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" as well as the character of Officer Hanson in the film Crash are both faced with these life changing decisions. Although these two characters must both make an important decision, the result and process of their decision making differ greatly from each other.

Both the speaker of the poem and Officer Hanson need to choose a course to take. In the case of the speaker, he must decide which path to take at a fork in the road he has encountered. He does not know which path will lead him to the life that he may desire. He has no way of telling the future; the correct path is unknown to him. Officer Hanson is similar to the speaker in the poem because he must pick to either continue being the partner of Officer Ryan or he must put himself into an embarrassing situation that will leave him open to a lot of ridicule from other members of the police force. Both must choose which path is more likely to be right for them.

Once the decision is made and the path is chosen, there is no way to go back to that specific fork in the road or that exact moment.

The speaker and Officer Hanson share the fact that they both have to make one or two decisions that will determine how the rest of their life will be lived. There is no way to avoid making the decision. If a decision is not made, the speaker will spend the rest of his life stuck at a fork in the road. Officer Hanson could be jeopardizing his career more by not making a decision. Once made, the decision will either haunt or help the future, but there is no way to know in the present what will happen in the future. They both can only hope that they have chosen the right path. If they have not, they must deal with the consequences of the choice that has been made.

Although neither the speaker nor Officer Hanson know what the result of their choice will be, Officer Hanson probably has a better idea as to what will happen than the speaker in the poem. Officer Hanson knows that by deciding to drive a solo car rather than have a partner he will be the subject of the rest of the police force's taunts. If he stays with the other officer, he will be forced to refrain from expressing his ethics and stopping the other officer from continuing to take advantage of his position as a police officer. Unlike Officer Hanson, the speaker in "The Road Not Taken" has no clue which path will be better for the future. He is unable to determine the better of the two paths, although he eventually chooses the path that fewer before him have taken.

The processes in which the speaker and Officer
Hanson make their decisions differ greatly from each other. The speaker contemplates his decision, looking as far down the path as he can, trying to see what the outcome of his choice will be. He can only see a little way in the distance, indicating that the future is unknown to him. Officer Hanson makes a very quick decision and fails to think his actions through before doing them. As a result of his rash decision, he kills a man. If Officer Hanson would have waited and actually looked at what the man was taking out of his coat, he would have realized that the hitchhiker meant him no harm. All the other man wanted to do was show that they both put the same figurine on their dashboard. If Officer Hanson would have acted in the same way as the speaker, he would not have committed a crime that would haunt him for the rest of his life.

The difference in the speaker's and Officer Hanson's decision making process has greatly affected the outcome of their choice. The speaker in the poem states that the path he has chosen made a difference in his life. He believes that he has chosen the correct path for himself, unlike Officer Hanson whose choices lead him to make one of the greatest mistakes of his life. He realizes that his decision was the wrong one, but he has no way to turn back time and give life back to the man he killed. He tires to pretend that it never happened by destroying the evidence. Officer Hanson pushes the body out of his car before burning the car until nothing is left of it. Although the evidence of the murder is gone, he will always know that he took another man's life even though he was in no true danger.

Both the speaker and Officer Hanson have had to make a decision that will change the rest of their lives, whether that change is desired or not.

They share similarities and differences in their decision making processes, all of which contribute to the outcome of the choices they have made. Whether the path chosen is right or wrong, there is no way to go back and change the decision that has been made. The only way to change the future is to learn from the past and decide which path to take next.

~Ali L.

Posted by: Ali L. at April 20, 2006 08:27 PM

Making Choices and Making a Difference

Throughout our lives choices have to made. There comes a time when each and every person needs to stand up for themselves and make a change. This is exactly what the youth of 1989 Poland did. They overthrew a communist government by defying the rules, and using their own discretion. Robert Frost's poem, "Road Not Taken," encouraged us to do the same thing. The basis of the poem is to promote self-judgment, and break away from the normal set of ideas. In the film Generation '89 and Robert Frost's poem, "Road Not Taken," the similarities are evident; all of the characters explored new ideas, and broke away from the route that most people had chosen. While these things were similar, the differences are obvious; Frost's decision had less of an impact on other people's lives, and the youth of Generation '89, decided on their choice as a group.

Robert Frost's poem, "Road Not Taken," was about a person choosing the option to follow his heart, and pick a road that was barely traveled. There was a fork in the road separated by a tree. One road was dirty and worn with little to no leaves, while the other was grassy and covered with yellow leaves. The slightly worn road symbolized adventure and exploration.

Taking this road was an option to Frost, because he had never traveled it before, and he did not know where it led. The heavily worn road symbolized boredom and dullness. Frost had taken this route on number of occasions, and he knew exactly where it took him. Traveling the unknown road had a lot of uncertainties and possibilities. Frost had no idea what this road had in store for him, whether it was good or bad. This route may have had better scenery or been shorter, but Frost would never know unless he took it. In the end Frost ultimately chose to take the road which had not been traveled much. Apparently this decision was a good one for Frost, because he stated in the poem, "I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference."

The ideas of the documentary Generation '89 focused on a generation of youths who successfully overthrew the Soviet Union communist government.

The current issue going on during 1989 was the Soviet Union's ruthless communist government. Many of the Polish civilians hated this type of government, because they were forced to give everything they made to the government. The Soviet Union claimed to, "liberate" Poland, but this definitely was not the case. When a country is liberated, it is supposed to be free and have liberty. Poland was not liberated, because they were under control of an abusive government. The youth of Poland took the initiative to stand up for their rights, and take control of the country. These youth were composed mostly of college students in their late teens and early twenties called the NZS(Independent Student Union), which stood for the Independent Student Union. Another group that made up the rebels was the "Solidarity." This was a group of shipyard workers that created their own union, and were the group that eventually won the election. With the combination of the NZS and the Solidarity, Poland was able to overthrow the government and regain their independence.

Generation '89 and Robert Frost's poem, "Road Not Taken," have a lot of things in common. The main idea of the film and the poem were to encourage change and self-judgment. Frost was trying to persuade his audience to do something out of the ordinary. He tried to stress the fact that without change, we will never know what else is out there. The generation of 1989 Poland felt the same way. They came up with the idea of overthrowing the government, because they were tired of everyday life. Robert Frost and the people apart of the revolt separated themselves from the normal population by exploring their options, and exercising their freedom. The Generation '89 civilians and Robert Frost both opposed an idea that was followed by many people. Robert Frost traveled a road where not many had gone before, and the 1989 Poland generation traveled a road where others were afraid to go.

Although the situations experienced by the 1989 generation and Robert Frost had many similarities, there were also differences. One of those differences was Frost's decision only involved him, while the 1989 generation's decision involved thousands of people. Another difference was, Frost's decision was only represented by one side of the spectrum, himself. The 1989 generation's decision was represented by many sides of the spectrum, including those who were students, those who were not, and those who supported God, and those did not. Robert Frost's situation did not involve any violent acts on the contrary the situation in Poland often included harmful acts. One last obvious difference between the Robert Frost poem and the film, Generation '89, was Robert Frost made his decision out of a desire to change his route, while the 1989 generation made their decision out of a desire to change their government.

Robert Frost's poem, "Road Not Taken," and the documentary, Generation '89 both focused on making decisions, and choosing paths that were rarely traveled. Robert Frost chose the road that was barely traveled, because he had never taken it before and did not know what it had in store. The 1989 Poland generation created a revolt, because they wanted to see how their country would operate under a different rule.

The 1989 generation was different from Robert Frost in the way that they acted as a group and overthrew their government, while Frost acted alone and took a new route. The purpose of each situation was to persuade the audience to defy the normal set of ideas, but the approach in which they did it differed.

~Kashiff M.

Posted by: Kashiff M. at April 20, 2006 08:29 PM

Professor Hobbs,

I feel that Ali touch all of the major similarities and differences between Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken," and the film Crash. Both the writer of the poem and the character in the film have difficult decisions to make that will effect the rest of their lives.

The most important similarity is the fact that both the writer and the film character broke away from the road that would normally be chosen to take the more difficult path. They both were able to take the chance that life may not be as simple by choosing this path.

The most significant difference in Ali's essay was the difference in decision making process of the two men. The writer of the poem took his time and thought out the important decision that he had to make and the outcome that would possibly follow. In the end, Robert Frost believed that he had made the correct choice for himself. On the other hand, Ali was quick to point out that Officer Hanson did not clearly think out his decision and he ended up taking a man's life. The officer would have to live with his spur of the moment decision for the rest of his life.

Ali did a great job breaking down Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken, and the film Crash. Although there were many characters in the film Crash to choose from, Ali chose the one who made the biggest impact on the film.

Angela H.

Posted by: Angela H. at April 25, 2006 12:51 AM

Professor Hobbs,

Kashiff does a very good job of analyzing “The Road Not Taken” by pulling apart all of the main ideas that are presented within the poem. He describes how the speaker has two paths to choose from and he does not know what the outcome of either one will be. He also explains the final line of the poem and how the choice the speaker made turned out to be the right one.

Next, Kashiff explains the concept of the documentary Generation 89 and mentions how the youth of Poland at the time managed to change the way their country was run by standing up for what they believe in.

The major similarity between “The Road Not Taken” and Generation 89 that Kashiff presents is the idea of change. He says how the speaker in the poem is taken the path that has been traveled down less which could be seen as a change from the ordinary. The students shown in Generation 89 stand up for their rights until what they do not like about their country is changed.

One of the main differences presented in Kashiff’s paper is that the speaker in the poem is making his decision for himself while the youth of Poland is making a decision that will affect the rest of the county. Also, Generation 89 presents differing viewpoints while the poem is only about one person and their decision making process.

I feel that Kashiff presented his ideas in a manner that made his ideas clear. One is able to understand all of the points he mentioned. He touches on both the similarities and differences between the poem and the documentary and presented his ideas in a very thoughtful manner.

Ali L.

Posted by: Ali L. at April 27, 2006 11:58 AM

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