Mending Wall

Robert Frost, one of the most famous poets in America, is also known as a farmer poet.  This is primarily because he uses metaphors from the lives of peasants in his poems and builds on them.  His poems begin in delight and end in wisdom.  ‘Mending Wall’ is no exception.

Spring time mending of walls is a regular ritual every year for the New England peasants.  The poet uses this as a starting point to think about the use and misuse of walls and borders.  The poem begins with the realization that there is something in nature that doesn’t love a wall.  The walls destroyed by winter makes him think so.

The poet and his neighbour decide to mend their wall during spring time.  While reconstructing the wall, the poet constantly thinks about the futility of the wall.  They have no cows that may cross their property.  They are growing different crops.  But his neighbour repeats the old saying, “Good fences make good neighbours”.

In the dark shades of the trees, the poet sees his neighbour carrying stones in both hands.  This reminds him of an uncivilized Stone Age man.  According to the poet, he moves in darkness.  Not just the darkness of trees, but the darkness of ignorance.   

Frost has left many paradoxes in the poem which may confuse a superficial reader.  He poses a question and leaves it largely unanswered.  Although the author appears to be against the idea of wall mending, it is he who initiates it.  So the intention of the poet is perhaps to make us think about the use and abuse of boundaries and segregation.

There are various interpretations possible for the poem.  One interpretation is that the walls represent rules and laws.  Justice is the process of mending walls.  But in a really just society there will be no need for any rules, laws or walls.  In another interpretation, the seemingly anti-social wall building itself becomes an occasion for social interaction.  There are some critics who view the poem as a comment on the creative process.  Creation is also disruptive.  At least it disrupts the status quo.

The title of the poem is also equally ambiguous.   Mending as a verb reminds us about the activity of the two neighbours.  They are repairing the walls between their two farms.  As an adjective mending tells us that the wall is something that keeps the relationship between the two neighbours in good condition.

The poem is written in blank verse.  There are no end rhymes.  Most lines contain five stressed syllables.  There are no stanza divisions.  There is a speech like quality to the verse.  The vocabulary is simple and there are no fancy words. There is a conversational tone to the poem which goes well with the theme.
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