Mending wall By Robert Frost
Introduction: The poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost was first published in 1914. The poem is about two neighbours who meet each year in Spring to mend the stone wall dividing their fields. This shows how good fences make good neighbours, and how we can build these walls to maintain long-lasting relationships with neighbours. The fence between the two neighbours is a symbol of hostility. This poem was written when World War One was just beginning in 1914, and this poem represents the hostility of the time.
About The Poet
Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963) is one of the most prominent 20th-century American poets. He has earned worldwide respect and fame. Frost won more awards than any other contemporary American literary figure. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry four times. More than forty colleges and universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, have given him honourary degrees.
The poem, “Mending Wall” is a beautiful poem written by Robert Lee Frost. The speaker in the poem, the poet himself, and his neighbour, get together every spring to repair the stone wall between their respective properties. Spring is the season when the damages caused by winter have to be repaired. The neighbours meet and walk along the two sides of the wall repairing the damage as they move.
In the beginning, the speaker states that, something there is that doesn’t love a wall. Walls have many enemies. Frost – heave breaks them. Hunters pull them down to help their dogs to chase rabbits. The spirit of spring has made the poet slightly mischievous. A suggestion of some mysterious force in nature at work against walls and boundaries is skilfully expressed in such a line as “ Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” or “I could say ‘elves’ to him.” This something seems to include the frost – heave, hunters and elves.
The poet writes of inanimate objects as if they are alive. and therefore he addresses the boulders and says,
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned.” Similarly of apple trees, he says,
“My apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines, I tell him”.
The poet feels that repairing the wall is as futile as a game, as his apple orchard and his neighbour’s pinewood cannot damage each other.
The neighbour says that good fences make good neighbours. But the poet feels that there is some instinctive urge in man and Nature to break walls. He feels like saying that even elves hate walls, but prefers his neighbour to realize it himself. It is better that he should understand it. When the neighbour walks towards the wall with stones in his hands, he looks like a savage of the stone – age. The port describes his neighbour as,
“I see him there, Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top. In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed”.
The neighbour has a closed mind, as he sticks to his father’s maxim that good fences make good neighbours.
This poem was first published in 1914, in the volume, North of Boston. It is a dramatic monologue. The poem is written in colloquial and dramatic style. The speaker asks questions and then himself answers them. The poet has created the casual and informal effect of conversation. The speaker is young, new-fashioned and has a progressive attitude. The neighbour is an old, conservative farmer.
Starting from the building of a broken boundary wall between his estate and that of the neighbour, Frost goes on to reflect about physical and figurative walls between individuals, families, races and nations.
While mending the wall, the poet suggested that the wall was unnecessary. According to the poet, heavy frost, hunters and elves do not like walls and they bring them down. Thus Nature, human beings and supernatural beings hate walls. After all, his apple trees could not eat his neighbours’ pine cones. Fences may be needed if there are cows with them. But that is not the case. The poet gives both sides of the argument for and against walls. The poet felt like arguing further. But the neighbour stuck to his view which was his father’s before him.
He, therefore, repeatedly utters,
“Good fences make good neighbours.”
But the poet is of the opposite opinion, as he points out:
“There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard”.
Thus the poem portrays a clash between these two points of view. The wall symbolises all kinds of man-made barriers. The wall suggests the division between nations, classes, racial and religious groups.
The speaker describes his neighbour as an ‘old-stone savage.’ His views about the necessity for walls show that his mind was also in darkness. He could not think of breaking walls between men to maintain universal brotherhood. The poem ends with his utterance/maxim.
“Good fences make good neighbours.” This is the central theme of the poem. The poet leaves it to the reader to judge whether his neighbour is right in taking view that barriers such as walls help us to understand and respect one another. Thus “Mending wall” is a symbolic interpretation of the modern situation. We would like that there should be no barriers between men, between states, but we also love to live within four walls, within self – limitations.
Answers to check your progress
1. What, according to the poet, are the causes for walls breaking down?
Answer:- The poet says that there is something in the world that does not love a wall. In winter heavy frost disturbs wall and the stones at the top of the walls are thrown down, and gaps are created. Again, huntress does not like walls. In order to drive rabbits out of their hiding places the hunters deliberately create gaps in walls. The mischievous elves are also responsible for causing damage to the walls in winter.
2. Give a brief account of the argument about walls between Frost and his neighbour.
Answer:- The wall between Frost’s apple orchard and his neighbour’s pinewood suffers damage during the winter. Next spring, he and his neighbour meet to repair it. Walking along, each on his side of the wall, they replace the fallen stones. Frost says to his neighbour that his apple trees could not eat the pine cones of the latter. Frost feels that repairing the wall is meaningless. But his neighbour replies that good fences make good neighbours. Frost feels like pointing out that neither of them had cows and that is another reason for pulling down the wall. But the neighbour repeats the old maxim which he learnt from his father.
3. Why does Frost say that his neighbour “moves in darkness”?
Answer:- While repairing the wall between their estates Frost suggested to his neighbour that the wall was unnecessary. After all, his apple trees could not eat his neighbour’s pine cones. But the neighbour insisted that good fences make good neighbours. Watching him come up to the wall, carrying a big stone in each hand the poet felt for a moment that he was like a savage armed with weapons of the stone – age. Then it struck Frost that his neighbour’s savage like appearance was not merely physical. His views about the necessity for walls shows that his mind was also in darkness. He could not think of breaking barriers between men to maintain universal brotherhood.
4. Bring out the significance of the title ‘Mending Wall’.
Answer:- When we read the poem superficially, it is merely an account of two New England farmers, one of whom wants to build a boundary wall between their respective properties. According to him “Good fences make good neighbours’. The other, the poet himself, does not consider the fences at all necessary at that particular place. But the poem is not as simple as that. The fence or wall here has s symbolic significance. It also symbolizes national, racial, religious, political and economic barriers which divide man from man and come in the way of mutual understanding and universal brotherhood. ‘Mending Wall’ is a symbolic poem in which the poet symbolizes the conflict between the new trend of bringing down barriers between men and nations and the old view that for good neighbourly relations fences and walls are essential.
Short Answer Type Questions
Q. Why did Robert Frost write Mending Wall?
Answer:- “Mending Wall” was published in the North of Boston in 1914. The poem speaks of how self-isolation provides a sense of protection, but at the same time prevents personal growth and growth in relationships.
Q. What does the title mending wall mean?
Answer:- The word “mending” is used as a verb in Mending Wall by Robert Frost. The title refers to the task that the speaker of the poem and his neighbour perform in repairing the wall between their two farms. Each spring brings “mending-time,” so the speaker calls on his neighbour and they meet to mend the wall.
Q. How does the speaker feel about the gaps in the wall?
Answer:– Since the gaps tend to grow, the speaker seems to believe that there is some aspect in the world “that doesn’t love a wall. Nature “sends the frozen-ground-swell under it” so that the rocks on top spill off and fall on the earth.
Q. What is the irony in Mending Wall?
Answer:- The greatest irony in the poem “Mending Wall” perhaps is that even when the speaker realises that there should be no wall between the neighbours he continues to help build the wall. As the poem progresses, the speaker discusses how all kinds of natural forces, including the land and animals, conspire every winter to knock down the wall.
Q. What is the conflict in Mending Wall?
Answer:- The tension in “Mending Wall” grows as the speaker gradually exposes himself as he portrays a native Yankee and responds to the regional spirit he embodies. The opposition between observer and observed— and the tension created by the observer’s awareness of the difference is crucial to the poem.
Q. Does the wall separate the two neighbours or bring them closer together?
Answer:- No, it unites the two neighbours. The wall acted as an instrument to get them together, as they would meet to mend it annually.
Q. What does the wall in the Mending Wall symbolize?
Answer:- The wall in the poem’ Mending Wall’ symbolizes two points of view from two separate persons, one from the speaker and the other from his neighbour. The wall not only serves as a divider in the separation of the estate but also acts as a barrier to friendship and contact
Q. What is the message of the Mending Wall?
Answer:- A generally accepted theme of the poem “The Mending Wall” concerns the self-imposed obstacles preventing human contact. In the poem, the neighbour of the speaker pointlessly tries to rebuild a wall in spite that the fence is detrimental to their land more than it benefits anyone. Yet the neighbour is still persistent in his maintenance
Q. What does the neighbour say in mending wall?
Answer:- The favourite saying of the neighbour is “good fences make good neighbours.” The neighbour of the speaker is of the view that neighbour should have fences. He seems to think there should be separation. To prevent confrontation, he would rather stay away from his neighbour. He says again”Good fences make good neighbours.”
Q. What does something there is that doesn’t love a wall mean?
Answer:- The speaker says “there is something that doesn’t love a wall” at the very beginning to create an atmosphere of mystery and to refer to someone who is a mysterious entity, person or force attempting to crack the wall. Literally, what this means simply is that nature (the speaker says) doesn’t like walls. He says Nature doesn’t like being hemmed in.
Q. What is the tone of the poem Mending Wall?
Answer:– Mending wall is written in a number of tones. The tone is enigmatic at the beginning of the poem,’ something there is that doesn’t love a wall’. Frost then creates a relaxed tone in the line’ we meet to walk the line and set the wall between us once again’.
Q. How would you describe the poet and his tone in Mending Wall?
Answer:- Mending Wall explains the story of two neighbours exchanging thoughts and talking about the wall that needs to be mended. Not only is the wall literal but it is also metaphorical. People placed barriers between them and others when they didn’t need to. The tone is marked by the nameator’s frustration when he sees the wall broken.
Q. What argument does the speaker give to convince his neighbour that they do not need the wall?
Answer: The speaker speaks that they don’t need a wall because their fields are of two different kinds. The neighbour’s field has pine trees, while the speaker has an apple orchard.
Q. What is ironic about the speaker in Mending Wall for helping to maintain the wall?
Answer:- The speaker in “Mending Wall” tries to maintain the wall, but he does not see any point in having a wall. One grows pine trees and the other apple trees, so there’s no need to divide because, as the speaker says, “My apples will never get across and eat the cones under his pines.”
Q. Who initiates the mending of the wall?
Answer:-The speaker of the poem is the one who initiates the mending of the wall. As the poem begins the narrator contemplates the fact that there is something mysterious that just doesn’t want walls to exist.
Q. How do the hunters damage the wall in mending wall?
Answer:- By knocking down parts of the wall, the hunters kill hiding places for the rabbits, making it easier for their dogs to catch them. Unlike the natural forces of destruction, these hunters are the freezing and thawing of the land, which also damages parts of the wall.
Q. How does the poem’s form relate to its meaning Mending Wall?
Answer:- The form of “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost is stichical rather than stanzaic. The word “stichic” means that the poem consists of continuously written lines of equal length rather than divided into different stanzas. The meter of the poem is blank verse. The poem contains a total of 46 lines.
Q. What is the major metaphor in mending wall?
Answer:- The wall is the main metaphor in this poem. It comes down to representing differences among people, things that hold them apart.
Q. Where does the mending wall take place?
Answer:-Like many North of Boston poems, “Mending Wall” narrates a tale taken from rural New England. The narrator, a farmer from New England, makes contact with his neighbour in the spring to rebuild the stone wall between their two farms.
Q. Why does the mending of the wall by the speaker and his Neighbour appear to be an outdoor game?
Answer:- The speaker here implies that making a wall isn’t natural; after all, the only man constructs boundaries. Repairing this wall is but a “kind of outdoor game” for him and his neighbour that they play annually as they seek to balance the rocks from either side.
Q. What are the contrasting views presented in the poem Mending Wall?
Answer:- The poem, “Mending Wall,” deals with the speaker and his neighbour’s two opposing views. Fraternity and empathy are the two essential factors in living a harmonious life, according to the Poet. He doesn’t like walls that divide from one another.
Q. Who is the speaker in the poem Mending Wall?
Answer:- The poem “Mending Wall” is about two rural neighbours who had a wall dividing them. The speaker is the owner of an apple orchard, as the lines read, “He is all pine and I am an apple orchard.
Q. Why does the poet consider the spring season mischievous?
Answer:- The spring is the mischievous time of year because the gaps in the wall are found during spring. The poem is about two neighbours who have a wall between their land. They have an agreement to meet once a year and maintain the wall, fixing any gaps that have developed in it over the course of the year.
Q. Why does the speaker repeat the following two lines Something there is that doesn’t love a wall Good fences make good neighbours?
Answer:- The lines “something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and “good fences make good neighbours” are repeated. The speaker dislikes having the wall between the two fields. He feels needless, citing the fact that the wall begins to collapse as proof that it should not be there.
Q. Why do the two neighbours continue to repair the wall every spring if they don’t necessarily believe that they should?
Answer:- One reason the neighbours keep mending the wall every year in spring is that they do so to mend and preserve their friendship.
Q. What I was walling in or walling out meaning?
Answer:- As the poet says’ walling in or walling out,’ he attempts to articulate a dilemma in which he is. He contemplates as he wonders what role the stone wall actually serves between him and his neighbour. He is unsure who he properly blocks or allows.