Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”

“Mending Wall” is written in blank verse, published in 1914, by Robert Frost. The poem appeared as the first selection in Frost’s second collection of poetry, North of Boston. The poem that begins on a conversational mode proceeds to have deeper implications. At the superficial level, it appears to be a war of words between two neighbours. However it has deeper ramifications in that it alludes to any border, division or barrier in any walk of life. Frost is a regional poet like Hardy, his Wessex being New England. The above said poem being regional, gives off universal evocations. Frost’s social orientation is suggested by the fact that the poem was read out in 1961 as an indictment on the construction of the Berlin Wall .The tone is colloquial and has a easy manner at the surface. Nevertheless, there is an underlying satire and wry humour. His statements are proverbial, anti-thetical and thought-provoking. The influence of his being a poet and a teacher are prevalent in the poems as they aesthetic, and also aim for moral upliftment. Metrical variations and the technique of enjambment contribute to the theme of the poem. Just as Frost does not call for a ‘wall’, the lines run on to the next without necessitating for a full stop.

The very opening line of “Mending Wall” poses as a typical instance of Frost’s inverted statements:

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

When it should have been: “There is something that doesn’t love a wall.” Frost endeavours to catch our attention at the outset by the technique of inversion. We are left thinking in suspense as to what cannot love a wall. The poet picturizes the ground beneath the wall swelling up so as to spill the boulders on top of the wall. Gaps are made sufficient enough for two people to pass through easily. Hunters have also contributed to this phenomenon by not leaving a stone unturned in their process of disclosing rabbits to their earnest yelping dogs. Nevertheless, he takes care to mention that no one has seen the gaps or heard them being made. At spring-time, which is the cleaning-up time., these rocks seem to find themselves there. The poet informs his neighbour on the other side-as it is the equal responsibility of both to maintain the wall. They preset a day to reset the wall, walking the line along. “To each the boulders that have fallen to each.” They take care to heed to the bricks that have fallen on their respective areas, and take care not to “trespass” to each others chartered territory. The boulders are incongruous in their shapes of ‘balls’ and ‘loaves’ and it is takes a ‘balancing act’ to replace them. Frost asserts that “we wear our fingers rough with handling them.” The wall that is supposed to act as a “protection” only causes them harm. the frovilty of the situation is echoed by referring to the whole process as’just another kind of outdoor game, one on a side. Frank Lentricchia says that “Kant’s theory that work and the aesthetic activity are antagonistic, polar activities of man is, in effect, disproven, as the narrator makes work take on the aesthetic dimension.” The speaker mocks at the situation claiming that his area was an apple orchard that would not go across to ‘devour’ the cones under the pines. To counter this, the neighbour diplomatically puts forward his feelings in a proverbial dictum: “Good fences make good neighbours.” Though it is the neighbour that primarily wants the wall in its place, it is the speaker who has to take the initiative for mending the same during spring time.If the neighbour utters: “Good fences make good neighbours”; the speaker seems to state:” Good neighbours make good fences”.

See also  Analysis of Robert Frost's "Mending Wall"

Also note that the neighbour just carries on an aphorism from his forefathers.His is an echo and it is not an individual voice. The line is listed by the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as a mid 17th century proverb, which was dear to the American consciousness due to its significance in the poem

Frost goes on to contemplate as to what exactly makes good neighbours-does it depend on the presence/absence of cows. Here the intruding of cows serves as a metaphorical allusion to domestic problems. The neighbour on the other side, emphatically utters a myth as a truth when he exclaims: “Good fences make good neighbours.” The poet, on the other hand, attempts at mythifying truth, when he claims that it could be ‘elves’ that brought down the wall. A wall is emblematic of borders and boundaries, dictates of custom and doctrines of tradition that is a product of civilization. Nevertheless,the neighbour, far from being civilized, is visualized as a “old-stone savage armed” The neighbour appears to transcend back into primitivism, as he clasps one boulder in hand and moves in the darkness of irrationality. He is ‘armed’ as the nomadic, as he is constantly in uncertainty and suspicion. The neighbour though he says that he does not want to go beyond his father’s saying: that is only a pretext for him: “And he likes having thought of it so well.” There appears to be a pun on the title. “Mending Wall” refers to the process of mending the wall. It may also signify that the wall may have the property of ‘mending’ or sorting out differences. However, according to Frost, the wall was primarily responsible for the difference anyway.

See also  The Life and Poetry of Robert Frost