This poem does not advise. It does not say, “When you come to a fork in the road, study the footprints and take the road less traveled by” (or even, as Yogi Berra enigmatically quipped, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”). Frost’s focus is more complicated. First, there is no less-traveled road in this poem; it isn’t even an option. Next, the poem seems more concerned with the question of how the concrete present (yellow woods, grassy roads covered in fallen leaves) will look from a future vantage point.
It is this contrariness which makes man stronger than death, and which enables him to endure. It was from this pure contrariness that man evolved. Finally, the man and his wife agree that they have had a joint insight into reality. By being contrary and asserting his independence, man like the brook becomes individual. The poem gains complexity by moving on two levels, the personal and the strictly philosophical. Contrariness is necessary in personal relationships. It is only when people are free to disagree that they can be truly close to one another. They represent the rational approach to life. The implication of the symbolic weight which he gives the wave is that contrariness is not only necessary to man. The most fully developed appreciation of the stream as an emblem occurs in "West-Running Brook". The white water is simultaneously with them, behind them, and beyond them. It becomes the stream of life itself. The poem also has certain implicit references about the white and black contrasts, the domination of the black by the white, which was at the time an issue behind the partition of the northern and southern states and the conflict between the Negro of the west and of the east. It may also be that the west-running brook is American originality that eschewed the European models in art and literature.