Mending Wall is one of the most analysed poems of Robert Frost. It was published in the early part of his life as a poet. When he wrote the poem, he was living in the rural part of New England. The title of the poem gives us a sense of both abstract and literal aspects of mending a wall.
It has 45 lines in total which written within the range of Blank Verse.
The poet begins with a conviction that there is something in nature that doesn’t love a wall so it keeps trying to break it apart slowly. Austin Allen writes how a poem about a simple rural wall has become a part of discussions on international borders, immigration and nationalism.
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The centre of questioning is around a proverbial saying ‘good fences make good neighbours.’ The poem starts with the nature of gaps in wall which happens either naturally or sometimes hunters do to facilitate their own hunting. Slowly it questions its origin when the poet finally calls his neighbour to come and go along the wall, each on his own side. He logically questions if he has apple orchards and his neighbour has pines and both doesn’t affect each other anyway then why they even need a wall. It makes us think of a wall, what is it and what are its purposes, why they should even exist. When the neighbour insists that a good wall makes good neighbours, the poet questions whether a barrier can ever make good neighbours, how should one even interact with the other person? With a wall between them.
The ironic ways of Frost make us wonder about the ambiguous stand which the poet takes regarding a wall. Yet the idea is clear from the way the poem describes his neighbour’s actions. He says that when bringing stones to mend the wall, he looks like an old-stone savage. So, building a wall must be coming from an ancient animal instinct which the poet is implying us to get rid of. It is a regressing act; the poet says that his neighbour moves in darkness. It is the darkness of that animal phase which hasn’t broadened alongside the evolution in human beings.
The act of mending a wall is described in such a way that one understands that the act of estranging one’s fellow neighbour because of some inherited tradition is an inhuman error on one’s part. Lawrence Raab writes that “The poem doesn’t begin with “I hate walls” or even “Something dislikes a wall.” Its first gesture is one of elaborate and playful concealment, a calculated withholding of meaning.” So, we finally understand in the end that building walls is a useless act. It has no practical purpose; it is a result of the animal insecurity in human beings. It has become sort of an outdoor game for human beings which they do for its own sake.
Without trying to apply the poem’s ideas in politics, one can simply comprehend the error which we commit when we fight over borders. Frost himself said that the poem was spoiled by being applied. So in the end, the neighbour gets the last word in the poem that good fences make good neighbour only to emphasises the poet’s teaching that we must mend our togetherness instead of building walls all around and between us.
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