Mending Wall by Robert Frost: Summary and Analysis

Mending Wall is a dramatic narrative poem in forty-five lines of blank verse composed by the 20th century modern poet Robert Frost. The title is conspicuously vague, in that "mending" can refer to either as a verb or an adjective. Considering "mending" as a verb, the title refers to the activity that the poem's speaker and his neighbor perform in repairing the wall in every spring.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)

If "mending" is taken as an adjective, it suggests that the wall serves a more subtle function: as a "mending" wall, it keeps the relationship between the two neighbors in good condition.

Every year a tradition of mending wall is followed by two neighbors that divides their property. The narrator of the poem feels there is no need to mend the wall as there is no cattle but only pine and apple trees. He is a little bit skeptical of the tradition and does not understand what the necessity of the wall is. He notices that even the natural world does not like the wall as the stones fall down from the wall without any reason. The narrator tries to convince his neighbor, but no vain. He accuses him of being so old fashioned and rigid in valueless tradition. The neighbor on the contrary insists on the importance of the wall and its mending. He asserts that the wall crucial in maintaining their healthy relationship. He states "Good fences make good neighbors." The neighbor does not leave his ground and repeatedly says "Good fences make good neighbors."

Characteristic details often repeated in the New England landscape is stone fences; laboriously kept in neat repair by their owners. In this poem, which tells of the springtime ritual of mending such a wall, two kinds of Yankees-or men-- are dramatically contrasted. The 'I' of the poem is unconventional in his thinking and in his discourse; his neighbor is a person who stubbornly takes for granted that anything which his father has thought and said must be a final fact. The narrator opens with some of his reflections, about the way nature seems to battle, in its mysterious way, against a wall. He then tells of an annual arrangement he has with his neighbor to repair winter damages- "to set the wall between us once again." There is irony, of course, in the fact that those who live near one another, thus cooperate to set themselves apart, an irony which is heightened by the fact that this particular wall has no real purpose. In the brief argument which follows, the narrator teases his neighbor about this situation; but the neighbor repeats an old motto which he has thoughtlessly accepted.

Like many other poems, 'Mending Wall' is about a social a situation. The distinctive use of symbols enhances the significance and deeper meaning of the poem. The fence suggests national, racial, religious, political and economic clashes and discrimination which disperses man from man and hampers the ways of cultivating good relationships. The argument between the two neighbors signifies the conflict between tradition and modernity. The young generation wants to demolish the old tradition and replace it with modernity while the old wants to stick on to the existing tradition and beliefs. It is a symbolic interpretation of modern situation where national boundaries are fast disintegrating, promoting an international understanding. Though no wall, no barrier is required to maintain harmony and peace between people and nations, yet some kind of self-exercised limitation is inevitable to avoid confrontation. The poem, thus, grows through contrasts and contra-dictions.

Mending Wall is a character-study. It has the intensity of feeling as in drama. Apart from the poet-speaker, the presence of the second person in it is suggested by quoting his words, "Good fences make good neighbors". In the process of arguing and counter-arguing, Frost reveals himself and his neighbor.

The poem is rich in idea; it is rich in artistic excellences. As Jennings points out, "Frost solemnly indulges at length in the pathetic fallacy even though, somewhat paradoxically perhaps, he often writes about inanimate objects as if they were alive". And in the words of Thompson, the poem is a beautiful illustration of the poet's efforts to bring about the reconciliation of three separate planes of sound; "The first of these is the basic and theoretically rigid meter which Frost is willing to reduce "virtually" to "strict iambic" and "loose iambic". These basic accents, fitted into the variable structure of the line and of the stanza, offer an underlying foundation for words and phrases. The second plane of sound is derived from the words and phrases they might be pronounced without regard to meaning, without regard to context. The third plane of sound is derived from the tones of the voice which give particularly intended shades of meaning to the words when they are spoken as units in their context of phrases and sentences". The poem provides Frostian matrix through his poetic representation of thought, in various forms of inner and outer dialogue. In its final evaluation, the poem exemplifies "counterbalanced ways of looking at one and the same thing".

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Shrestha, Roma. "Mending Wall by Robert Frost: Summary and Analysis." BachelorandMaster, 8 Oct. 2017,