“Although the fast food path may be easier, it is diffidently not the only path out there.”

Is this perhaps a variation on Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”? Many readers assume that Frost is serious that taking “the one less traveled by” has “made all the difference” for Frost; but clearly once a person has chosen a road he is going to know only the consequences of that choice, and hence cannot gauge the “difference” it has made; his poem also says the roads actually look pretty much the same, at least from the spot where the choice must be made. Implied is that neither road puts itself forward and says “choose me! choose me!”

In the “Fast Food Path” variation, we are also assured, no path asserts itself. The fast-food one “may be easier,” the writer says, making clear that this is an impression rather than a fact; furthermore, this path is modest, unassuming—far from assertive, it is “diffident,” or at least diffident in allowing the writer to notice other paths “out there.” A quick check of Webster’s adds a dimension of hesitation, lack of self-confidence, to the path. “The Fast Food Path” creates an ironic tension between the screamingly bright colors and large graphics most readers associate with fast-food restaurants and the shyness of this “easier” path as observed by the writer. The vastness of the American landscape, embodied in the phrase “out there,” underscores the diffidence of the fast food path against this larger and multi-pathed vista.

Okay, enough LitCrit.

Why my student chose a “path” metaphor I cannot say, especially since so many fast-food restaurants jostle each other along the shoulders of major highways and local thoroughfares. For me it’s impossible to picture a BurgerKing or MacDonald’s nestled among trees, streams, stone walls, and other bucolic bric-a-brac beside the path. What grows beside paths, as any reader of the Romantic poets knows, is violets.

Once the path is established, though, I suppose it could work all right…if my student had known the difference between “diffidently” and “definitely.” Again, the likelihood that this error is a mere typo is small, with so few letters coincident. This is a plain old mistake.

I guess we have to go with the spirit rather than the letter. Take the harder path (uphill? rocky?), of which there is at least one; the path of fast food, paved as it probably is with ketchup and grease, will get you where you may not actually want to go. The exercise of the harder path will be good for you!

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

2 responses to ““Although the fast food path may be easier, it is diffidently not the only path out there.”

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