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Mending Wall, by Robert Frost Summary

March 24, 2005

Mending Wall

As the title implies, Robert Frosts Mending Wall transmits the theme of a wall being merely an emotional and physical border which represents a false sense of security. Metaphorical language contributes to the profound meaning of this poem. By exploring the angles Frost takes in the poem, his purpose of writing Mending Wall is revealed. The speaker is to provides the inquisitive point of view in order to ask the questions the audience might ask. The neighbor provides the conventional point of view on mending walls. Finally, Frost imbues his own personal thoughts into the overall structure and language to create the underlying theme of the poem. Throughout the poem, Frost gives us three perspectivesthat of the skeptical speaker, traditional neighbor, and his omniscient self, utilizing them to develop his theme.

Frosts speaker in Mending Wall is an observer questioning the world around him; he asks what the audience might ask regarding the purpose of the wall. He instigates the meeting between himself and his neighbor during spring mending-time (Frost). While mending walls with the neighbor, the speaker proposes the questions that Frost proceeds to answer: why do [good fences] make good neighbors? (Frost) and what is the purpose of mending walls?

Frosts neighbor in Mending Wall serves as a traditionalist who, like an old-stone savage armed (Frost), who moves in darkness. His likeness to a caveman demonstrates the ignorance and one-sided approach of the neighbor; Frost creates the neighbor to represent traditional values (Coulthard 41). He will not go behind his fathers saying (Frost) that : good fences make good neighbors (Frost) revealings his belief that the wall is essential for his survival. He is dependant upon the wall for his lifestyle. Because he likes the thought of it so well (Frost), the walls function is only artificial. Through the use of structure and language in shaping the relationship between the speaker and neighbor, Frost reveals his theme that the wall is merely an emotional and physical border which represents a false sense of peace.

Frosts tone in Mending Wall is conversational, and neutral, and a bit sarcastic. He writes in unrhymed iambic pentameter a blank verse format coupled with the syntax of awkward lines to slow the reader down. This structure parallels Frosts idea that walls are obstacles. Its complex meaning can be summarized as follows: it is a poem about boundaries, barriers, (in)determinacy, conventions, tradition, innovation, (dis)agreements, individuality, community, property, behaviour, communication, knowledge, and folk wisdom (Mieder 155). Frosts use of these poetic devices as well as his meticulous choice of language allows the reader to draw parallels between the structure and the plot.

Mending Wall is a metaphor for war and politics. Frost initially published Mending Wall around 1914 in his collection titled North of Boston. The world was on the brink of World War I and ; international politics influenced his notions of walls and shaping shaped them into the boundaries separating countries (Mieder 16256). The work of hunters (Frost) and their yelping dogs (Frost) symbolize hostile soldiers marching into battle across walls of the enemy and , provinge national borders ineffective. Springtime represents a time of rebirth and the speaker and his neighbor go out and repair the broken wall. This reestablishment of borders in the poem maintains friendly relationships while upholding peace. Likewise, Frost suggests such relationships between countries also restore borders, sustain friendly relationships, and maintain peace. This is ironic since even though both individuals and countries are isolating themselves from the each other by mending walls and borders, they must meetconvene and interact to achieve the common goal. However, once a neighbor, such as one of an adjacent country, intrudes upon personal territory, the walls are shattered and boulders (Frost) may fall. The ritual used for the balance of these stones depicts that rebuilding the relationship is delicate. As in of the relationship between countries, only through special care and respect may one stone on a stone (Frost) be slowly and painfully rebuilt.

Significantly Frost developesdevelops the theme in the lines: Ssomething there is that doesn’t love a wall (Frost) and Good good fences make good neighbors (Frost). The something that doesnt love a wall (Frost) is referring to nature which is oblivious towards the acts of humans building walls. Nature, as Frost says, Sends the frozen-ground-swell under it/ And spills the upper boulders in the sun. These two lines resemble how nature disrupts the motives of man the building of the walls and borders and wishes for no boundaries whatsoever in a free and un–confining world. The rhetorical question about good fences creating good neighbors is answered by Frost in the following lines:

Why do they make good neighbors? Isnt it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall Id ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense (Frost).

Frost finds no reason for a wall to be built between two neighbors as there is no justification for its construction. Frost implies that walls give a sense of security, though it may prove to be false. The neighbor likes having the thought of [having the wall] so well (Frost) that he is coddled by traditional values into a false sense of safety (St. Armand 48). Ultimately, it is this same fictitious feeling of safety which makes nations live in harmony.

In Mending Wall by Robert Frost, the theme that a wall is an emotional and physical border representing a false sense of security is interwoven throughout the entire poem. Through the use of three different perspectives, Frost provides insight into this principal theme. From the speaker of the poem, there are curious examinations of the reason for mending walls. Alternatively, the neighbor represents an old-fashioned approach in his logic for mending walls. Finally, Frost himself conveys the overall theme by his use of structure and language to fuse the concepts of the two characters into a political statement. In

Works Cited

Coulthard, A.R. Explicator: Frosts Mending Wall. Winter 1987, Vol. 45 Issue 2:

pg. 40-42.

St. Armand, Barton Levi. Explicator: Frosts Mending Wall. Fall 1982, Vol. 41 Issue 1:

pg. 47-48.

Wolfgang Mieder. Folklore: Good Fences Make Good Neighbours: History and

Significance of Ambiguous Proverb. London: Aug 2003. Vol. 114, Issue. 2;:


oulthard, A.R. Explicator– Winter87, Vol. 45 Issue 2, p40-421, 3p

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