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Robert Frost’s Poem “Mending Wall”

“Mending Wall” is a popular poem written by Robert Frost which attracts the reader’s attention due to the importance of the theme covered in this poem. The author touches upon one of the most important philosophical themes connecting with the nature of human existence and the relationships between people. Robert Frost expresses the importance of divisions in human society basing his poem on the well-known proverb “Good fences make good neighbors”. This burning issue covered in the poem and presented in such a captivating way with an abundant use of stylistic devices and symbolic images makes the poem interesting and captivating.

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The functions of the first-person narration

Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” was published in his second book of poetry “North of Boston” in 1915. This poem is autobiographical as far as it was written after Frost’s return from England, where he lived at the farm in New Hampshire and the name of Napoleon Guay was taken after his neighbor in New Hampshire.

“Mending Wall” consists of forty-five lines which are not structured in stanzas and they are presented in the first-person narration. The author has chosen the first-person narration to express his own ideas to the reader. There is the assumption that this poem is an autobiographical one and there is no wonder that Robert Frost has chosen the first-person narration (Frost and Faggen). The use of iambic stresses helps Frost to create the conversational atmosphere of the poem. Robert Frost did not follow any strict rhythm rules; he based his poem on the occasional internal rhythm. “Mending Wall” is written in a blank verse. In the place of rhyme, the writer relies upon the sporadic internal rhyme along with the use of assonance in particular ending words of the poem such as “well”, “wall” and “hill” among others (Frost and Faggen).Robert Frost pays a lot of attention to the details involving the reader in the process of creation. Although, the author makes a lot of implications, he is not responsible for the deductions which the reader makes reading this poem. It should be pointed out, that the author resorts to the use of the personal pronoun “I” in the poem versus the pronoun “he”. In such a way, the author points out the boundaries and differences between people. There is “he” and “I” and there is “his” territory and “mine”. The use of these pronouns helps the author to express the main idea of the importance of divisions in human living.

The idea of the poem is based on a popular proverb belonging to the middle of the 17th century, “Good fences make good neighbors” (Mending Wall). Frost presents two main characters in his poem who discuss the problem of being a good neighbor namely the narrator and his neighbor. The narrator is depicted as an evasive, deceitful, verbose and negative person while his neighbor is portrayed as a plain-spoken, succinct and positive man. The main statements of the poem are “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” and “Good fences make good neighbors”. These opposite statements demonstrate the points of view of the main characters. The first statement belongs to the narrator who does not like the idea of mending the wall and the second statement is the neighbor’s words about the importance of the wall in the people’s life.

Robert Frost demonstrates his talent using a great variety of stylistic devices such as metaphors, similes and repetitions which help him to pass the main idea to the reader. The main theme of the poem is the relationships between people. Are the borders between people necessary for keeping friendly relationships between them? Robert Frost highlights the struggle between barriers made by people and the nature. The nature destroys such barriers and the gaps appear in the course of time. It is a sort of a struggle between the nature and borders created by people. People are accustomed to live with borders as the indicators of their property and division, individuality and ownership. When two neighbors decide to build the wall, they open the way to the communication and interaction with each other. The absence of such borders is one of the main reasons of quarrels between people. People need the territory for their property which is isolated from the other ones.

The process of building expresses not only physical mending the wall but creating relationships between two neighbors. Even though there is the necessity for people to have friendship, the necessity of having the own space is also very valuable. The narrator explains such necessity in the following words: “He is all pine and I am apple orchard” (An Analysis of Robert Frost’s Mending Wall). This metaphor expresses the idea of the people’s variety. All people are different, we have our own likes and dislikes and it is quite difficult for us to live without borders. There are “pines” and there are “apples”. This metaphor indicates the idea of the segregation of the world (Armand and Barton). The author covers the idea that people having different interests and skills are not treated equally in our society. “Pines” may be better than “apples” and vice verse. The choice of better ones depends on the decision of the society. This metaphor is used to point out the importance of the existence of the wall as the divisions in human living (Arms and Nat).

There is one more interesting moment in the poem. The narrator spends a lot of time not only mending the wall, he talks to this wall. Maybe his neighbor is very boring and not talkative that the narrator has to talk to the stones. To my mind, the author highlights the idea that all human beings have the necessity in communication and relationships on the one hand and it is not obligatory to have a friend with whom we may talk as far as there are a lot of other objects that are ready to listen to our thoughts and discussions on the other hand. Nevertheless, it does not mean that the author underestimate the importance of friendship in our life. Factually, he points out that such friendship is impossible without certain boundaries. Every person needs to have his/her own space which should be isolated from other people. All people have such fences divided the modern society. These are not only fences existing between people’s proprieties; these are fences existing on the subconscious level and separate a person from another one. These fences are the symbol of a human individuality.

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The author makes the use of repetitions which are very successful at attracting the reader’s attention to the main ideas. There are two lines that are repeated twice: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” and “Good fences make good neighbors”. These repetitions are used to express the main ideas of the poem. More than that, these repetitions make the poem like a rock wall turned on its side. There are repetitions of some words in the poem namely “boulders” which is repeated twice and the word “stone” which is repeated four times. The word “stone” is more repeated because it has one syllable and it sounds like “own” which is also reinforce the main idea of the poem.

The main symbols of the poem are fences, stones and nature. The image of fences has contradictory purposes. Fences separate people on the one hand and they unite them on the other hand. The author ironically depicts the image of the wall. “The wall” is presented in the poem as an extended metaphor depicting all kinds of boundaries existing between people. Despite the narrator’s arguments to abandon this annual custom as it is so old-fashioned and primitive, his neighbor is strictly aiming at mending the wall as far as he realizes the importance of fences in human relationships (Clarke and Peter).

The neighbor explains his points of view with the words: “Good fences make good neighbors” which is repeated twice in the poem. “Another kind of out-door game” is another metaphor expressing the main idea of the poem. The author compares the process of mending the wall with the game. Robert Frost provides the similarities between adults and children who need playing. Factually, a human life is compared to the game. This image is traced through the whole poem. This metaphor understates the importance of the process of mending the wall as far as the nature destroys all these borders. Nature is depicted in such a way that it seems that it is the third main character of the story. The author depicts the nature in details so that the reader has a strict image of the landscape. The author opposes human needs dictated by the nature such as friendship and communication and those needs dictated by the society namely the need in the own space and propriety.

Robert Frost resorts to the use of such stylistic devices as repetitions, metaphors and similes to cast light upon one of the current problems of the society namely the borders between people. Nevertheless, he does not criticize the people who make these borders. They are necessary for our society to keep peace and order on the one hand and to keep good relationships between people on the other hand. Factually, without such boundaries, the society as we are accustomed to imagine it is impossible to exist. Boundaries are an integral part of the modern society. At the beginning of human civilization, people began to build walls to point out their territory and this process has been in progress till our time.

All the above said enables us to conclude, that Robert Frost has achieved the main goal of his poem. He has succeeded in the presentation of one of the most important philosophical problems. The use of metaphors, similes and repetitions reinforce the main idea of the poem. Robert Frost resorts to the use of symbols such as fences, stone, wall and nature, which are traced through the whole poem. The choice of the first-person narration presented in a blank verse, which is abundant with symbolic images, stylistic devices, and burning themes makes the poem captivating and actual at all times.

Works Cited

An Analysis of Robert Frost’s Mending Wall. Web.

Armand and Levi Barton. “Frost’s Mending Wall.” Explicator 41.1 (1982): 46-47. Print.

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Arms, George and Nat Henry.”Frost’s Mending Wall.” Explicator 37.3 (1979): 29. Print.

Clarke, Peter B.” Frost’s Mending Wall.” Explicator 43.1 (1984): 47-48. Print.

Frost, Robert, and Robert Faggen. Frost’s Mending Wall. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. Print.

Mending Wall. Web.

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