Mending Wall by Robert Frost

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“Mending Wall” opens Frost’s second collection of poetry, North of Boston, which was published by David Nutt. It has turned into one of the most studied poems in modern literature. The poem’s theme is that isolation provides a sense of protection but prevents personal evolution as well as evolution in relationships.

Mending Wall

BY ROBERT FROST

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
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.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’

Analysis of Frost’s “Mending Wall”

“Mending Wall” was published in 1914 in North of Boston. The poem talks about how isolating one’s self provides a sense of protection, but at the same time prevents personal growth and growth in relationships.

There is a stone wall that separates the speaker and his neighbor’s property. Every year, they meet to make repairs to their wall. The speaker does not see the reason for the wall and shares his disbelief in the wall with his neighbor. He says the wall is pointless because they don’t have anything to keep in the yards, just trees. The neighbor does not understand the speaker’s disbelief and repeats the phrase, “Good fences make good neighbors.” The neighbor strongly encourages the wall, and does not take in the opinions of others.

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The author uses the wall as a symbol of separation and the boundaries in human life. The speaker and his neighbor are “brought together” by the Spring each year but they remain separated because they have the wall between them. The speaker has an internal conflict of trying to understand the reason for the wall. On the other hand, the neighbor feels that the wall acts as a privacy barrier and privacy and distance are essential for relationships to work.

The imagery in the lines, “he moves in darkness it seems to me, not of woods only, in the shade of trees,” depicts the neighbor as if he doesn’t actually know his surroundings; he is moving in the dark. He is somehow isolated and resides in the outskirts of society, and not simply in the shade of trees. He is not only isolating himself with a physical wall, but with a social wall as well. Frost himself has a personal connection to this poem, as he mostly lived in his family’s farm, quite secluded.

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