The poem “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost is set on a farm in New England. The poet here describes the wall which acts as a boundary or a barrier between two farms. Frost takes the persona of an England farmer who gets into the ritual of mending the wall with his neighbour. While describing the physical wall between the farms, he also explores the relationships between the two neighbours who own the farms.
He describes his neighbour as someone who is stubborn, conservative and believes in following the traditions passed down to him by his father. Frost explores the themes of relationships in society, the barriers between people and the way people live with these barriers.
The poem is written in first-person narrative, making it a monologue. The use of the word ‘I’ shows that it is the poet’s own views which he presents in the poem. The poem is like a story that the poet is narrated. He makes use of present tense which gives us a feel as if the action is happening while we are reading the poem. The poem is also written in a vernacular speech to emphasize the previous effect. This is evident in the fact that the poet uses words like ‘doesn’t’ and ‘I’d’ which are used in everyday speech.
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He also makes use of varying punctuation marks to emphasize the use of common-day speech, “To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,” and “Stay where you are until our backs are turned.” Hence, we see that all these techniques which the writer uses help in creating the effect that the poem is expressing the poet’s personal thoughts and it I something writes out of his heart which might have been worrying him for long.
The structure of the poem is also in a block form which is like a wall. It emphasizes the ‘wall’ as a boundary between the two farms and also as a barrier between the people. The poem has a light mood which is evident when the poet says, ‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned. It is also set in a playful atmosphere as we see that the writer compares the wall mending process to an outdoor game and he even says, ‘spring is the mischief in me’.
The tone at the beginning of the poem is mysterious, vague and ethereal which is evident from the following phrases, ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’, ‘frozen ground swell’, ‘no has seen them made or heard them made’ and ‘spell’; it shows that the poet does not know who wants the wall or why do the barriers subsist in the relationships of people. It is as if the wall is a ghostly tool haunting the relationships of people. Then the tone of the poet becomes casual and conversational with irritational undertones with the neighbour, ‘and on a day we meet…’, ‘to please the yelping dogs’ which shows that probably poem is written as the poet was thinking about it as it contains normal human characteristics of getting irritated while pondering for too long over something.
By the middle of the poem, the tone is playful, impatient, childish and mischievous,’ Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’, ‘Oh, just another kind of outdoor game’,’ my apple trees will never get across And eat the cones under his pines’; this is ironical to the questioning nature of the poem where the poet is really tensed about the existence of the wall as a barrier between people.
Then it is frustrating and introspective, ‘He only says, Good fences make good neighbours’, which highlights the poet’s contrasting view towards life as compared to his neighbour. And finally, we see that the poem ends in disapproval, ‘He will not go behind his father’s saying’ which shows that the poet is really irritated by his neighbour’s nature but in a deeper context it shows that the poet does not agree with the existence of wall between the farms or the barriers between the people in the society.
Hence, we can say that the change in tones shown in the poem focus on the fact that it is the poet’s own views that are being presented in the poem and it is also to emphasize the poem’s colloquial nature as usually humans when speaking generally go through various tone swings in their speech depending on the atmosphere surrounding them.
Robert Frost makes use of imagery as his tool to put through his ideas in the poem. The key image in the poem is the ‘wall’. The wall is a physical image as well as a metaphor. The physical wall separates the two neighbours. It is this wall which the poet and his neighbour are mending leading to the separation of their farms, ‘and set the wall between us’ and ironically it is the mending of this wall which brings both of them together during the mending process, ‘and we meet to walk the line between us’. On the other hand, the wall is the symbol of the barrier between the people and in their relationships. It represents how two people deal with life in different ways.
He also uses imagery to show the setting of springtime, ‘spring mending time’. He uses images from nature like, ‘woods only and shades of trees’ and ‘apple orchard’ to focus on the fact that nature is a very vital part of life and it is the nature itself which does not like the wall or the barriers, the frozen- ground swell’. There are superstitious images as well in the poem, ‘elves’ and ‘spells’ which explore the fact that even God does not like barriers and therefore, the poet questions that when nobody wants the wall then why is present; mystifying nature of all.
He uses the metaphor,’ And some are loaves and some so nearly balls’ to compare the stones and boulders to bread loaves and balls which are difficult to be balanced.. It shows that wall is made up of such stuff which is will end up falling. Thus, it highlights the fact that the wall has no significance.
He also says that the neighbour’ moves in darkness’ which is again metaphoric for the nature of the neighbour who believes in his old age traditions. Another metaphor, ‘He is all pine and I am apple orchard’ signifies the differences between the poet and his neighbour in their approach to life. Pine as it is spiny and woody signifies a dull and dry life of the traditionalist neighbour whereas apple being juicy and fresh signifies a happy and jovial life of the poet who believes in no barriers. The simile in the poem, ‘Like an old-stone savage armed’ signifies the nature of the poet’ neighbour who is very stubborn and traditionalist and in this simile, he compares the neighbour to a stone-age man with old values.
The poet also exploits sound effects in the poem to emphasize on the wall, the barriers in the society. He uses assonance, ‘What I was walling in or walling out’ and sibilance, ‘That sends the frozen-ground-swell’ to emphasize the wall which is the unwanted barrier between the poet and his neighbor from the viewpoint of the poet. Therefore, at the end we can say that the main idea being brought out by the poet is that the walls which exists as barriers between the people need to be broken down as he says, ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’
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