What is so important about mending a wall? Robert frost a down to earth, phenomenon has used his supernatural skills to write a poem which may seem to be a simple, ordinary poem, yet what lays hidden behind the veils may be unraveled. That is the spiritual world that you and me may learn to understand the philosophical basis of human nature that provokes the human revolution. Believe it or not this poem was ingeniously devised by Robert Frost to articulately open up a world of ideas that acumen imagination and its complexities. That is what I will be elaborating on in terms of textual evidence.
Like many of Frost’s poems, mending wall’ involves a journey. We are introduced to two farmers in an annual meeting at the wall that separates their properties. They walk the length of the wall, repairing damage that has been done during the year. This process allows Frost to probe the whole question of communication or, more precisely, the way we put up walls and create barriers between ourselves. As happens in this poem, Frost moves in his thinking from a basic, natural setting to an abstract consideration of human behavior. The very first word of the poem establishes the sense of that which colours its entire atmosphere.
This opening line establishes a mystery; there is something’ that doesn’t want the wall to be there. Whatever it is, it is a powerful force: it creates a frozen grounds swell’ that attacks the wall from the base, forcing the boulders on the top to tumble off. Wintertime is when the destroyer does its work. The effect is not a small one, but a gap contrived is as wide as two people are. The question is what has caused them? ‘ In this stanza, he breaks from his consideration of this mysterious wall-hater for the moment to discount hunters as culprits. He knows that hunters damage walls. He has repaired the damage they have done.
They cause a lot of damage to let the dogs get at rabbits that hide amongst the rocks of the wall. The hunting image becomes, however, but a dramatic aside to the main concern of the poem. A more earthly consideration of an expression of that force which is responsible for the unexplained gaps which seasonally and mysteriously appear in the wall and await discovery in the spring with all the patience of the cosmos. We return to the air of mystery. These gaps that appear just seem to have happened, with no one seeing or hearing them being made. The idea of mending is introduced in the last line.
Frost makes spring mending-time’ sound a natural part of the year. Like tree felling, sheep shearing and crop-harvesting. It is a ritual which has it’s own paradox, it causes two neighbors to cooperate so that the wall which separate them to be sustained. It divides even their energies at this moment as they keep the wall between them as they walk its line. The definition of the ritual in strong symbolic terms is a statement of humankind’s determination to hang on to all that divides it. Furthermore in this stanza they fix the wall in springtime, after wintertime, when the frozen-ground-swell’ has done its work of destruction.
Frost feels a sense of mischief, an urge to question deep rooted and unreasoned attitudes. So he questions his neighbour’s motto: why do good fences make good neighbours? He uses the most elementary of examples: if you had cows you would of course want to wall them in and stop them from roaming into others’ properties. But he points out the obvious, simple truth, in the most simple of language: But here there are no cows. ‘ Surely, such a persuasive argument must make his neighbour rethink his preoccupation that you need walls between you to make good neighbours.
Frost questions the reasons for the wall being built in the first place. He sees a couple of reasons for building a wall: if there is something you need to keep in or out, build a wall; if some trouble can result from open spaces, build a wall. Otherwise why have one? He climaxes his argument by sharing his open-line conviction with his neighbour: Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’, adding for emphasis, That wants it down’. He hopes his neighbour will see that this is why they have to meet every spring to wear their fingers out repairing this unnecessary barrier.
After his plea, he senses failure. Perhaps his neighbour’s attitude or impassive response makes Frost feel that he has to go further. It occurs to him briefly that this man might be persuaded by more superstitious argument. Should he suggest that elves are constantly eroding the wall? But he doesn’t proceed on this new track. He knows that the force that wants the wall down is not from some children’s story. It is something much more profound. Besides he wants the man to start thinking about the phenomenon of the wall mysteriously crumbling.
If the man suggested elves himself, that would at least be a start to questioning and appraising the game they are playing. Frost attempts to talk to his neighbour out of the wall fail. Before the man even answers Frost’s arguments, Frost gives a picture of him doing his work. This man who insist on having a wall that has no clear function is seen as a product of a long-gone age: an old-stone savage’. He is like a savage from whose times, when, it seems, it was essential to wall yourself off from other savages for safety and protection. There is a lot of shade around from the woods and the trees.
But this not the only darkness the man is walking in. it is the darkness f the past. He has not moved into a more civilised, enlightened age when, Frost believes, you don’t need to wall yourself off from other people. The picture Frost draws of his neighbour finally has a touch of mockery in it. How can this man be so narrow-minded and silly? But the predominant tone is one of pity for people who thoughtlessly create barriers between themselves and others. The final lines show the hopeless quest Frost embarked upon. Deaf to the arguments, his neighbour sticks to his father’s dictum: Good fences make good neighbours’.
He will not go behind this saying to test whether it has any validity. Frost has tried to guide him behind it with his questioning, but to no assistance. The neighbour in fact takes pleasure in repeating this piece of derived wisdom’. The poem leaves us with a somewhat comic character who like an untested saying, derived from his father, who probably derived it from his, and so on back into the old-stone’ age. His neighbour ends the poem, in something of an anticlimax and wins the argument’; the wall is fixed and they will meet again next year. A strong feature of Frost’s poetry is his use of symbols.
He starts a story and gathers an additional meaning and significance as the poem develops. The wall represented barriers, divisions, irrational and unnatural dividers that keep people apart, nature symbolises a unifying force, the stone-age man represent unthinking man and that civilisation has passed him by while spring symbolises a new birth in nature. Changes of seasons are important on Frosts’ poem where the neighbour rejects the chance for a new start. So as you can see this poem is just a poem about mending a wall, but it has significant meaning which relate to human behaviour.