Analysis of Mending Wall by Robert Frost Essay
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Analysis of Mending Wall by Robert Frost
Robert Frost is describing a process in "Mending Wall", which is repairing a wall that separates his territory and his neighbor's. The wall was deteriorated during the winter, when the cold frost created cracks and gaps in the wall. He uses a nearly infantile imagination to unravel the mystery of the damage that appeared suddenly in spring. While they are tediously laboring to reconstruct the fence, Frost is imploring his neighbor about the use of the wall; his apple trees can be clearly distinguished from his neighbor's pine trees. Yet underneath this quotidian routine, Frost goes beyond the surface to reveal its figurative meaning.
The poem renders an apparent question: Why do…show more content…
He also uses other devices such as a pun, applied in the line, "And to whom I was like to give offence." The last word of the line simply emphasizes the importance of the subject, the fence. The most prominent figure of speech, however, is the ironic, "Good fences make good neighbors." This is completely opposite of the connotation of the poem. Fences do not make neighbors, but strangers that are apathetic towards each other. The neighbor seems to prefer this approach, to eliminate any risks of trespassing or offenses. Yet what the fence really does is hinder the development of friendship. This is comparable to the barriers of bitterness, anger, hate, and fear men put between one another that obstruct love and friendship.
The poet also used imagery to appeal to the senses. The puzzling force that abhors the wall "sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, and spills the upper boulders in the sun."
“Mending Wall” is a dramatic narrative poem cast in forty-five lines of blank verse. Its title is revealingly ambiguous, in that “mending” can be taken either as a verb or an adjective. Considered with “mending” as a verb, the title refers to the activity that the poem’s speaker and his neighbor perform in repairing the wall between their two farms. With “mending” considered as an adjective, the title suggests that the wall serves a more subtle function: as a “mending” wall, it keeps the relationship between the two neighbors in good condition.
In a number of ways, the first-person speaker of the poem seems to resemble the author, Robert Frost. Both the speaker and Frost own New England farms, and both show a penchant for humor, mischief, and philosophical speculation about nature, relationships, and language. Nevertheless, as analysis of the poem will show, Frost maintains an ironic distance between himself and the speaker, for the poem conveys a wider understanding of the issues involved than the speaker seems to comprehend.
As is the case with most of his poems, Frost writes “Mending Wall” in the idiom of New England speech: a laconic, sometimes clipped vernacular that can seem awkward and slightly puzzling until the reader gets the knack of mentally adding or substituting words to aid understanding. For example, Frost’s lines “they have left not one stone on a stone,/ But they would have the rabbit out of hiding” could be clarified as “they would not leave a single stone on top of another if they were trying to drive a rabbit out of hiding.”
In addition to using New England idiom, Frost enhances the informal, conversational manner of “Mending Wall” by casting it in continuous form. That is, rather than dividing the poem into stanzas or other formal sections, Frost presents an unbroken sequence of lines. Nevertheless, Frost’s shifts of focus and tone reveal five main sections in the poem.
In the first section (lines 1-4), the speaker expresses wonder at a phenomenon he has observed in nature: Each spring, the thawing ground swells and topples sections of a stone wall on the boundary of his property. In the second section (lines 5-11), he contrasts this natural destruction with the human destruction wrought on the wall by careless hunters.
The last sections of the poem focus on the speaker’s relationship with his neighbor. In the third section (lines 12-24), the speaker describes how he and his neighbor mend the wall; he portrays this activity humorously as an “outdoor game.” The fourth section (lines 25-38) introduces a contrast between the two men: The speaker wants to discuss whether there is actually a need for the wall, while the neighbor will only say, “Good fences make good neighbors.” The fifth section (lines 38-45) concludes the poem in a mood of mild frustration: The speaker sees his uncommunicative neighbor as “an old-stone savage” who “moves in darkness” and seems incapable of thinking beyond the clichéd maxim, which the neighbor repeats, “Good fences make good neighbors.”