Mending wall-Robert frost Critical analysis
1. The speaker may scorn his neighbor’s obstinate wall-building, may observe the activity with humorous detachment, but he himself goes to the wall at all times of the year to mend the damage done by hunters; it is the speaker who contacts the neighbor at wall-mending time to set the annual appointment. Which person, then, is the real wall-builder? The speaker says he sees no need for a wall here, but this implies that there may be a need for a wall elsewhere— “where there are cows,” for example. Yet the speaker must derive something, some use, some satisfaction, out of the exercise of wall-building, or why would he initiate it here? There is something in him that does love a wall, or at least the act of making a wall.
2. Of course, a little bit of mutual trust, communication, and goodwill would seem to achieve the same purpose between well-disposed neighbors—at least where there are no cows. And the poem says it twice: “something there is that does not love a wall.” There is some intent and value in wall-breaking, and there is some powerful tendency toward this destruction. Can it be simply that wall-breaking creates the conditions that facilitate wall-building? Are the groundswells a call to community- building—nature’s nudge toward concerted action? Or are they benevolent forces urging the demolition of traditional, small-minded boundaries? The poem does not resolve this question, and the narrator, who speaks for the groundswells but acts as a fence-builder, remains a contradiction.
3. The speaker’s lack of perception and ironic self-contradiction, the possible underestimation of his neighbor’s reasoning, and the ambiguous attitude Frost himself conveys.
4. The neighbor realizes man simply cannot coexist peacefully without the limitations of boundaries regulating interaction. The speaker voices mankind’s inherent detestation of the restraints imposed by walls and the satisfaction derived from their destruction.
5. At the conclusion of the poem, the speaker judges his neighbor as a primitive “savage”, unwilling to question his inherited principles of times past in light of the persona’s supposedly superior, enlightened views. When the narrator voices his doubts concerning walls, the neighbor merely repeats: “Good fences make good neighbors”.
6. The opening section (lines 1-11) of the poem begins with the understatement: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” The speaker identifies nature as the first ‘something” not in favor of walls. He observes how the ‘frozen-ground-swell” of the earth under the wall “spills the upper boulders in the sun”. The “frozen-ground-swell” could be interpreted as frost, coincidently the author’s last name. As the frost in the poem destroys walls, this phrase implies that the poet likewise favored their removal. The remark in line four describing the gaps made by nature’s deterioration of the wall suggests that its removal increases unity and fellowship between individuals by making: “gaps even two can pass abreast”.
7. While nature only upsets the “upper boulders in the sun”, humanity “left not one stone on a stone”. Nature leaves the wall somewhat intact, yet man completely destroys it. This provides a counterargument to the narrator’s assumption that nature rejects the concept of walls. Apparently nature favors the preservation of walls to a certain extent, but not to the point that they completely inhibit unity. Mankind, on the other hand, seemingly hates all walls and favors their complete destruction.
8. The second section of the poem (lines 12-30) describing the mending process continues to reflect the ironic contradiction of the speaker’s seemingly negative view of walls. In line l3 he says: “I let my neighbor know beyond the hill”, clearly establishing that he initiates the mending of the wall. Why would the speaker take the initiative to maintain the wall if he did not believe in it? The mending brings the neighbors partly together, as described in line 14: “we meet to walk the line”. But the wall still separates them while they perform the chore: “We keep the wall between us as we go”. They never truly come together, which leads to the question whether this practice really exhibits a “mending-time”, as suggested in line 12. The purpose of their meeting serves only to o’set the wall between us once again”. It seems to instead represent a deterioration of the neighborly relationship if viewed from the speaker’s standpoint opposing walls. Emphasizing the sense of separation is the repetition of “the wall between us” in lines 15 and 16. From the neighbor’s view, ironically, the mending of the wall proves essential in maintaining their relationship.