How do you view the “Open Road”?
“AFOOT and light-hearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.” – Walt Whitman
In a mobile society, roads have a special meaning to us. They take us to and from work and school. They take us to visit friends and relatives. They symbolize rites of passage - birth of a child, first date, senior prom, wedding, and even death. There is almost always a road associated with every place we go and every important event in our lives. Yet, often roads are minor details in our memories of important moments. Because roads are everywhere, we often forget them.
Poets have long recognized the parallels between roads and life. Often, the references to roads in poetry are metaphorical. They make us think of our lives and how we have lived them. Some poets portray roads as the conventional path followed by everyone. Because of this, following a road is like following someone else’s way, not one that you have chosen. In the poem "The Road Not Taken," Robert Frost compares choosing the road less traveled with choosing the path in life less traveled. This, he contends, has made his life better:
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.
While early Americans explored roads on foot and on horseback, modern Americans are equipped with the automobile, which is meant to help us get from here to there even faster. Sometimes, however, so many cars choke our roads that it is impossible to get anywhere. In "Traffic," Stephen Dobyns describes being stuck in traffic as being "jammed together with my enemies, people no better than chunks of wood, impediments to my dinner, as I was an impediment to theirs." These lines reflect the feelings of many Americans, who are often rushed to get things done and don’t like anything to get in their way.
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