What does Robert Frost's poem 'The Mending Wall' mean?

I have to fill out an entire sheet according to the symbolism and whatnot in Robert Frost's poem 'The Mending Wall', but I don't understand at all what the poem means. Would someone mind briefly explaining what it is about? I don't need a full summary, just a brief explination. Thank you, it's very appreciated.


Oh, thank you so much!!!!

2 Answers

  • 9 years ago
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    The title is just "Mending Wall." On the simplest level, it's pretty easy to tell what's going on in the poem. Two New England farmers meet up, as they do every spring, to repair the stone wall that marks the boundary between their farms. The wall needs to be mended because frost heaves during the winter always cause some of the stones to fall off.

    The two farmers have very different attitudes toward the wall. The narrator, who seems to be the more thoughtful of the two, says that there's some force in nature that doesn't want the wall there, that keeps trying to knock it down. The neighbor just keeps repeating "his father's saying," words that have probably been passed down from generation to generation in his family, the adage "Good fences make good neighbors." That saying means that being a good neighbor is all about leaving people alone, staying separate, having clearly marked borders between what's your and what's mine.

    But the narrator doesn't buy that. Unlike his neighbor, he will "go behind" the saying. (That is, he'll question it and think about whether or not it makes sense.) He won't just accept a traditional way of thinking. He could understand the need for a fence between their farms if either one of them were a dairy farmer with cows that wander over and damage a neighbor's property. But that's not the case. He seems to value the fence not because it keeps two neighbors apart, but because it brings them together to work on a common project.

  • 9 years ago

    "Mending Wall" is a metaphorical poem written in blank verse, published in 1914, by Robert Frost (1874–1963). The poem appeared as the first selection in Frost's second collection of poetry, North of Boston. It is set in the countryside and is about one man questioning why he and his neighbor must rebuild the stone wall dividing their farms each spring.

    The neighbor rebuilds the wall without question, quoting "Good fences make good neighbors," a line listed by the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations as a mid 17th century proverb. But Frost's narrator questions the proverb, noting that neither his apple trees nor his neighbor's pine trees are likely to encroach on the other's property. He says, "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 offense." He also observes, both at the poem's opening and again midway through the poem, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall," referring to the forces of nature that bring a wall to decay and require it to be repaired and rebuilt. But the neighbor is not receptive to the narrator's doubts, quoting again at the poem's close that "Good fences make good neighbors."

    The Mending Wall 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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