(16) Mending Walls [By Robert Frost]

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Poem Instructions: Find one of your favorite poems from a famous author, and then write a paragraph of analysis for that poem.

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Mending Walls (Poem)

by Robert Frost

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors’.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

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Mending Walls (Poem Analysis)

The speaker sees no need for the stone wall which exists to separate his land from his neighbor’s. The speaker does not believe in walls for the sake of having walls, and wants his neighbor to see beyond the old adage: “Good fences make good neighbors.” The walls serve no purpose because there are no cows to contain, just apple and pine trees which do not wander around. The different kinds of trees (the speaker’s apple trees and the neighbor’s pine trees) already clearly mark the speaker’s land apart from the neighbor’s land. However, the stubborn neighbor refuses to listen to the speaker’s reasoning, and instead sticks with his traditional and old mentality. The theme of this poem is the conflict between old-fashioned and modern people.

There are some instances of symbolism that I managed to spot in this poem. The wall is an extended metaphor which represents relationships and boundaries. The speaker is portrayed as someone who is carefree, open-minded, trusting, reasonable, and friendly (open to a relationship). On the other hand, the neighbor is portrayed as someone who is stubborn, experienced, selfish, and traditional (no interest in having a relationship). The different kinds of trees also enforce their owner’s character. The speaker owns apple trees which are seen as flexible, sweet, and bright. On the other hand, the neighbor owns pine trees which are seen as stiff, unbending, and dark.

Two phrases in particular stood out to me. “He moves in darkness” shows that the neighbor is not open-minded. “Old-stone savage” shows that the neighbor is territorial and old-fashioned, unwilling to move forward into the modern mindset.

The poem is written in blank verse. There are no stanza breaks, rhyming patterns, or any obvious structure throughout the entire poem. The edges of the lines are not aligned and seem broken, similar to broken walls.

 

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