The main theme in Robert Frosts poem Mending Wall is a comparison between two lifestyles: traditions and a common sense. The author gives us a picture, illustrating two neighbors, two distinct characters with different ideas about what precisely means to be a good neighbor. So they build and repair the wall between them each spring after destructions, made by nature and hunters. They do it every time, over and over again, so the speaker puts the question if they need this wall at all. Frost is drawing habit and traditions on one side and logics and reasoning on another. The speaker thinks that even nature itself does not want this wall to exist, referring all the destructions they find each time to nature’s will to get rid of this wall as nature “sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, / And spills the upper boulders in the sun.” Narrator is more open and flexible, than his “old-fashioned” neighbor, and sees things in a different way. The speaker seems to us as a friendly person, who would want much more communication and friendship with his neighbor, than a separation and estrangement, caused by blind following the traditions without even thinking of if it still takes place in their situation. As their property is all trees, so there is nothing that could cross one’s board. The narrator sees a need for a wall “where there are cows,” or somewhere else, but not in their households.
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The meaning of the poem is how people literally and figuratively build walls and barriers between each other. Frost shows that sometimes it is absolutely unnecessary to put so many efforts and work in building of something, which is actually useless. And maybe not “Good fences make good neighbors,” but some other important things as respect and kindness do. All neighbors’ work that they do each time, reminds us of Sisyphean task, who had to push a boulder up the mountain and before reaching the very top of it, the massive stone would roll back down, and Sisyphus had to start over. We clearly see almost the same situation in the poem: the wall, which separates two neighbors, make them meet each year for mending it after destructions, and they both do a great job in repairing it. What seems very interesting and subtle to the readers is that the same wall that separates the neighbors unites them in the same time.
Poem Mending Wall does not have a rhyme and written in blank verse and has no stanzas, even though it has a very interesting structure. The author’s intention is to give this poem a conversational form, making it sound as natural speech. He is not using any fancy words here. Frost makes it on purpose, giving this poem a look of a very common story, so each reader may refer it to his own life situation.
Mending the Wall has forty five lines of first-person narrative. Poem is written in an iambic pentameter form and, mostly, there are ten syllables per line, but we also can find lines with eleven syllables. There are ten of such lines in this poem. Even though it has no rhyme, the reader can notice that Robert Frost is using a subtle internal rhyme and the assonance in some ending terms like “wall”, “hill”, “balls”, “well” and others. Robert Frost demonstrates here his mastery in irony, metaphors and figurative language, and symbolism.
The poem starts with “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” making readers to concentrate their attention on the one of two arguments, taken place in the poem. This first argument belongs to the narrator, and he sticks with it till the end of the poem. The first four lines tell us about how nature itself doesn’t like a wall and sends disasters and push upper boulders down. So we see, that the wall itself is not natural, that’s why the nature is against wall’s existence.
In the next seven lines (5-11) we see another reason, which destroys this wall: it is hunters. But the narrator refers these destructions to them with understanding, because he sees and understands the reason of their actions: “But they would have the rabbit out of hiding.” It is a subtle comparison between neighbors work and work of hunters: neighbors mend and repair the wall each spring just to find it destroyed the next year, and then they mend it again, what differs from hunters’ work, which destroys the wall, but meanwhile their work is not pointless, because in the end they get a benefit of it. We see that narrator is being skeptical towards keeping the wall.
Next nine lines (12-20) are very interesting, because despite of the fact that our narrator is not one of those neighbors, who wants to keep the wall, surprisingly, he is the first one who let his neighbor know each spring that it is a time to repair the wall. We see that he is more active than his neighbor, finding evidence in line 12: “I let my neighbor know beyond the hill.” We also find here, that they are actually good neighbors, because they both work on this wall very hard: “We wear our fingers rough with handling them” [stones]. Again Frost gives us a very subtle idea how this “separating” wall unites two neighbors and makes them work together as a team, makes them trust each other and help on their communication.
In lines 21-31 Frost compares mending wall with an outdoor game. And here in line 23 we find the main concept discussed in poem: “There where it is we do not need the wall,” which points, that narrator is not a fan of the wall and gives us narrator’s strong argument once again. It is a dead point of the poem. The author uses irony here, making narrator say to his neighbor that “My apple trees will never get across / And eat the pines,” underlying, that two neighbors obviously don’t have a real reason to build and keep this wall. But neighbor only says that “Good fences make good neighbors” (line 27), giving us another strong argument of the second side (neighbor). We find that both of them are so unconvincing and loyal to their ideas. Narrator wants to ask his neighbor “Why they [fences] make good neighbors,” as he looks beyond this folk saying and doesn’t just blindly follow this tradition.
Again in lines 32-34 we find disagreement between neighbors. Narrator is not giving up so quickly and wants to ask what he is “walling in and walling out” and to whom he “was like give offense.” Narrator doesn’t see a necessity of building a wall if there is no offense or some other things that could serve a reason for building this wall. But his words reach deaf ears.
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The last part of the poem (lines 35-45) again starts with “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and ends with neighbor’s words that “Good fences make good neighbors”. Those are both strong arguments, which are bringing bright and clear distinction in two men’s opinions once and for all. The author uses metaphorical device here, implementing such words as “elves” and “old-stone savage armed”, which ironically indicate on how old-fashioned and stubborn the neighbor is. Such “heavy” description of neighbor also indicates on how “heavy” and immovable he is in his opinion.
We can notice that there are repetitions of two lines in this poem. They are: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and “Good fences make good neighbors”. Robert Frost uses this technique to underline two main ideas in this poem. And no matter how our narrator would convince the neighbor, giving him reasonable ideas, this man would stay his ground.
In conclusion, the wall in Robert Frost poem Mending Wall represents the life duality, the theme of destruction and creation, which go along with each other. And here we see that destruction is not always bad if we are talking about something that prevents good neighbors’ relationship; and creation is not always good, if we create something not useful, more to say, something that estrange people from each other. The Frost’s wall is a symbol of ambiguity, separating and uniting two people at the same time.
Frost, Robert. “Mending Wall.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Mayer, 9th edition. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. 875. Print
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