Mending Wall Summary, Analysis, Meaning, Theme

Mending Wall summary

Mending Wall by Robert Frost

Mending Wall Meaning

Mending wall literally means the repairing or healing a broken wall of relationship between two human beings, between two neighbours, between two countries. Basically ‘wall’ symbolizes barrier or a divider to friendship, communication. But the neighbor is relentless in its maintenance, nonetheless. It is a mending wall as-

“Good fences make good neighbours”.

Mending Wall Introduction

Robert Frost’s Mending Wall was written in 1913 and was published in North-of Boston, which is generally known as the “book of people”, in 1914. It is based on the custom of New England farmers to replace stones dislodged from fences by winter’s “grounds well” or by hunters. The neighbour is unimaginative and conventional.

Mending Wall Theme

In the first edition, Frost wrote:Mending Wall takes up the theme where A Tuft of Flowers in A Boy’s Will laid it down.” Cook also confirms these comments by Frost:

“Nationality”, he exclaims, is something “I couldn’t live without.” “I played exactly fair in it. Twice I say ‘Good faces’ and twice ‘Something there is-‘You can make it national or international….. In reading the poem he stresses “I’d rather than he said it for himself.” just as in Two Tramps in Mud Time he stresses “It’s got to be for moral stakes.”

Mending Wall Summary Line by Line

Something there is………. bus breast– Making a sweeping statement, the poet says that there are certain things which do not need a wall.

The work of hunters…..thing– The poet says that the hunters do not require wall.

I have come after on a stone– The poet has gone after the hunters and watched them closely, but found that they were unwilling to repair the wall and put the dislodged stones in.

But they would have…the yielding dugs– The hunters are rather interested in taking the rabbits out of their shelter in order to feed and satisfy their shrill dogs.

Yelping– making a quick, shrill cry.

Boulders– big stones.

He is all pine…good neighbours– In these four lines, two contrasting views have been forwarded, first that of the poet speaker, and second that of the neighbour. The poet-speaker says that all the boundaries are of no use. Even without a wall one could live happily, confining himself to his own apple orchard, while the neighbour would be devoted to his tall pine trees. The poet assured the neighbour that his apple trees would never get across the pine trees that fall within his friend’s jurisdiction. But this pleading has no effect on the neighbour who still holds that good fences are necessary to maintain good, harmonious neighbourly relations.

Notion– idea, thought. Walling in– caging in, confining.

Before I built a wall..wants it down– The poet-speaker wants to know, before erecting a wall, the things or interests he is required to safe guard with a wall. Whom should he ‘wall in,’ and whom should he ‘wall out’ or keep out? Again he stresses his stand that there are some things that don’t want a wall.

He moves in darkness… of trees– The neighbour is seen with a boulder in each hand. The poet remarks that he suffers from ignorance, which is the worst of all darkness.

He will not go…good neighbours– The neighbour is a traditionalist and is not ready to change his views. He goes on repeating his inherited opinion, and he has given thought over it, that good fences are required for a harmonious relationship between the neighbours.

Mending Wall Summary

“Something there is …. them there.”

There is something in the world that does not love a wall and it lets the frozen ground swell under it and the upper ground be heated in the sun. This something that does not love a wall creates such an atmosphere as can allow the things or persons to pass together without any hindrance. The hunters lead a life quite different from others. I have been noticing their life they do not busy themselves in putting themselves one upon another. They rather wish to bring the rabbit out of its hiding place in order to satiate their hungry, sharped-toned dogs. What I mean is that the hunters do not create gaps and no one else has also ever seen or heard the gaps being created by them. But in the springtime the gaps are already there (in the form of holes created in the wall).

“I Let my neighbour… good neighbours”

I make my neighbour go beyond the hill and see the conditions there with his own eyes. One day we (the poet and the neighbour) met each other to proceed to the work of setting up a wall between ourselves. Now we have adopted the habit of keeping up a wall as we move along. Each of us has been yoked to the fate of keeping boulders-a mass of rock transported by the natural agencies. Some of these boulders are cake shape and other resembles balls, and they are very difficult to be kept in balance despite all skill of the builders. But eventually they are left there even if for a moment until the builders turn their backs. By handling these boulders, their hands become sore and rough.

It is all like an outdoor game in which one player is playing on each side. But the game becomes a thing of extra value when we indulge ourselves in it despite the fact that there is something that does not love a wall. In a game, no wall is needed. A natural wall is, however, automatically created, and my neighbour has to keep himself to the land abounding in pine trees, while I myself shall keep to the apple-grove. I assured my neighbour that my apple trees will not go beyond my boundary and eat the cones that grow under his pine trees. But the neighbour stubbornly repeats that ‘Good fences make good neighbours.’

“Spring is the mischief……..good neighbor”

I thought that the spring is a source of mischief in me, and I don’t quite know if I would be able to put an idea into my neighbour’s mind, the idea as to why ‘good fences make good neighbour‘ Good fences are required only where there are cows, but here there are no cows. So before I made a wall, I would like to know what I am going to protect therewith, or who is to get offended by the wall. There is something that does not love a wall, and it would that the wall was down. Where there is no need of the wall. I would like supernatural beings-elves that are of human shape but short size-to do work by telling the neighbour that they don’t like wall, but he won’t believe them. Then I wish that the neighbour ought to realize it himself I see my neighour bringing a stone with him in each hand and he has firmly held it lest it should fall stone. It appear to me that darkness (ignorance), not under the shades of trees or in the jungle.  It is certain that he will not give up the inherited idea-“Like father like son.” He has a very high opinion about his father’s conviction and goes on asserting that good fences make good neighbours.

Mending Wall Analysis

Characteristic details often repeated in the New England landscape are stone fences; laboriously kept in neat repair by their owners. In this poems, which tells of the spring time ritual of mending such a wall, two kinds of Yankees-or men, are dramatically contrasted. The ‘I’ of the poem is unconventional in his thinking and impish in his discourse; his neighbour is a person who doggedly takes for granted that anything which his father has thought and said must be a final fact.

The narrator opens with some of his reflections about the way Nature seems to battle, in its mysterious way, against a wall. He then tells of an annual arrangement he has with neighbour to repair winter damages-“to set the wall between us once again.” There is irony, of course in the fact that those who live near one another thus cooperate to set themselves apart, an irony, which is heightened by the brief argument which follows, the narrator teases his neighbour about this situation; but the neighbour repeats an old adage which he has thoughtlessly accepted.

Some may take this poem to be a little character-etching; others, may take it to be a parable about the way tradition works against nature to keep men or even nations apart. Frost merely tells the story. Writes G.R. Elliott, in The Nation,1919:

“Good fences make good neighbor”; but also, on the other hand, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” This two-sided text…….is the underlying theme of the poet’s whole work. Does it not also represent, in miniature, the great paradox which now comforts human society? “Walls” are indispensable, we find and yet our progress towards human brotherhood seems sadly cramped by ‘Walls.’ That this paradox is soluble in the spirit of true neighbourliness, but that the solution of it is laborious and exciting, is what one is made to feel keenly in reading Mr. Frost’s poetry.”

Like many other poems, Mending Wall is about a social a situation. It is a symbolic interpretation of modern situation where national boundaries are fast disintegrating, promoting an international understanding. Though no wall, no barrier is required to maintain harmony and peace between people and nations, yet some kind of self-exercised limitation is inevitable to avoid confrontation. The poem, thus, grow through contrast and contradictions

Mending Wall is a character-study. It has the intensity of feeling as in drama. Apart from the poet-speaker, the presence of the second person in it is suggested by quoting his words, ‘Good fences make good neighbours‘. In the process of arguing and counter-arguing, Frost reveals himself and his neighbour.

The poem is rich in idea; it is rich in artistic excellences. As E. Jennings points out, “Frost solemnly indulges at length in the pathetic fallacy even through, somewhat paradoxically perhaps, he often writes about inanimate objects as if they were alive.”

And in the words of Thompson, the poem is a beautiful illustration of the poet’s effort to bring about the reconciliation of three separate planes of sound: “The first of these is the basis and theoretically rigid meter which Frost willing to reduce “virtually” to strict iambic” and “loose iambic.” These basic accents, fitted to the variable structure of the line and of the stanza, offer an underlying foundation for words and phrases. The second plane of sound is derived from the words and phrases they might be pronounced without regard to meaning, without regard to context. The third plane of sound is derived from the tones of the voice which give particularly intended shades of meaning to the words when they are spoken as units in their context of phrases and sentences. The poem provides Frostian matrix through his poetic representation of thought in various forms of inner and out dialogue. In its final evaluation, the poem exemplifies “counterbalanced ways of looking at one and the same thing.”

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