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Poem Analysis: Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”

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    It was a time of freedom in the world of poetry. At the time, notable names such as Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Charles Darwin were dissecting the thoughts and behaviors of humans. The war between religion and science waged on while continually influencing poets’ writing. It was the Modern Period, and one of the biggest names associated with it is Robert Frost. Robert Frost was born March 26, 1874 in California. He became interested in poetry after moving to Massachusetts at the age of eleven. His first poem to be published was “My Butterfly” in 1894. A year later, Frost married his muse, Elinor Miriam White.

    Together, they moved to England where Robert became acquainted with Ezra Pound, a poet who helped get the word out about Frost’s talent. After three years, Robert and Elinor moved back to the United States, where Frost was already known after having published two collections, one named North of Boston (1914). Robert Frost died January 29, 1963. During his impressive career in poetry, Frost was awarded four Pulitzer Prizes. After running a farm in New England, Frost’s writing became heavily influenced by the beautiful land around him. It often included nature and embodied simplicity in its words.

    Frost’s wording may have been simple, but he always included deeper themes under the surface of the poem. The indirect themes of his poetry seem to have a timeless effect on its readers. He appeared to write about situations individuals find themselves in no matter the time period, whether he intended to or not. In fact, one of Frost’s most famous poems, “Mending Wall”, is the perfect example of how a piece of writing can seem straightforward, but at second glance, has a more powerful message. “Mending Wall” is written in iambic pentameter for the most part.

    However, Frost includes lines that have an extra syllable so the rhythm for the reader is disturbed, much like the wall is damaged. An example of this occurs in Line 8, which has the extra syllable: “But they would have the rabbit out of hiding. ” Also, Frost uses enjambment in order to make the reader pause at certain points where the character speaking is sharing a thought. For example, line 13 says, “And on a day we meet to walk the line”, which leaves the reader wondering what the neighbors are going to say or do for the brief pause in reading. Are they going to tear the wall down?

    He goes on to say, “And set the wall between us once again. ” (14) Arguably, the shape of the poem can be compared to a damaged wall when turned on its side. The lines are varying in length, which can be compared to a wall missing stones of different sizes along the top. Furthermore, groups of lines, such as from 41-44, are short and similar in length giving a visual example of: “gaps that two can pass abreast. ” (4) On the surface, “Mending Wall” is written in blank verse. He uses this form in order to keep the conversational aspect of the neighbors in tact.

    People do not typically speak in rhyme, so he tried to keep the poem feeling natural to the reader. Rather than the mind focusing on the rhyme scheme, it can focus on the message being delivered by Frost. As far as the message, it would appear that this poem seems to be about two neighbors simply having an informal conversation about the wall that divides their properties, and how it seems to always be in need of repair. That much is obvious, but Frost is simply using the idea of a wall as a symbol for a much bigger theme: the mental or emotional barriers humans set up against those different than themselves.

    On one side of the fence there is pine, and on the other is an apple orchard. “And on a day we meet to walk the line/ And set the wall between us once again. / We keep the wall between us as we go. ” (13-15) Therefore, an invisible wall is erected in the mind of the individuals that hinders the two from letting the other in completely. That is not to say the two neighbors do not like each other. Frost goes on to say: “Oh, just another kind of outdoor game” (21), hinting that the rebuilding of the wall is not exactly working, but that it is like playing.

    Frost uses repetition in his poem in order to exemplify his theme of mental barriers. First, “Good fences make good neighbors. ” (27, 45) He is making it a point to show that although there is a wall dividing individuals based on their differences, it is not all bad. Perhaps some separation decreases some of the tension that may arise between individuals. It can be a form of protection. That being said, Frost also emphasizes, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall. ” (1, 35) This line begins the poem and sets the tone for what is to come. It gives a sense of wonder to one neighbor why the wall is even there.

    It leaves the reader to ask the same thing. Why do humans have such a need to be separated from the next? Another use of repetition may be in comparison to how the neighbors must fix the wall over and over again. It is probable that this scene is replayed constantly throughout the year. The reader is made aware of this repetition in Frost’s use of the seasons. In line 2 he hints at winter with “…the frozen-ground swell under it”. He speaks of spring in line 28 being “…the mischief in me…” The repetition of lines and actions is like the repetitive behavior of rebuilding.

    Interestingly, the setting is the wall itself. The reader is not told what the interaction between the neighbors is at any other time. It is noteworthy that the two are speaking when the wall is broken and they have access to the other side. As they build the wall, they build a friendship or become comrades of sorts. It is plain to see that the wall is always in need of repair. “We wear our fingers rough with handling them. ” (20) He also refers to the stones as “boulders” in line 3. For the brief time the wall is damaged, one neighbor begins to wonder at the reason the wall is even there to begin with.

    He says, “My apple trees will never get across/ And eat the cones under his pines…” (25-26). In response, the other neighbor proclaims in Line 27: “Good fences make good neighbors. ” Perhaps each is better off on his own side where there is peace and comfort. Frost is letting the neighbor imply, “You stay on your side of the fence. I will stay on mine, and we will get along just fine. ” In other words, everybody is unique and the wall will keep it that way. All in all, Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” is a timeless poem. The theme of segregation is as relevant today as it was then.

    It is natural for humans to congregate with those they find similar to themselves. However, this practice needs to be limited. How much fun would the world be if everybody was the same? Therefore, everyone builds a mental wall in order to preserve his/her differences or uniqueness. It is in reinforcing this wall that humans are able to strengthen the bonds of friendship at the same time. Frost understood this concept. The poem ends leaving the reader with a sense of feeling content. Through the building of walls, individuals can embrace the differences among themselves. Besides, “Good fences make good neighbors. ” (27, 45)

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    Poem Analysis: Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”. (2017, Mar 07). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/poem-analysis-robert-frosts-mending-wall/

    Frequently Asked Questions

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    What is frost talking about in his poem Mending Wall?
    The poem revolves around the story of two neighbours who come across each other in spring every year to mend the stone wall that separates their farms. The poem demonstrates how good fences create good neighbours, and how people can preserve their long-lasting relations with neighbours by founding such walls.
    What is the major metaphor in the poem Mending Wall?
    There is only one metaphor used in the poem. It is used in seventeenth line where it is stated as, “And some are loaves and some so nearly balls.” He compares the stone blocks to loaves and balls.

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