Mending Wall by Robert Frost is a simple poem which airs the views and opinions of two farmers. One farmer is rather conventional and wants to repair and rebuild the boundary wall between the two houses during spring. The only reason behind this decision is that of tradition. The tradition of rebuilding the wall in spring has been followed by his grandfathers and father, and hence, he wants to keep up with the tradition. He further maintains and believes in the age old adage, “Good Fences Make Good Neighbours”.
The other farmer is unconventional and reflects before taking an action. He questions the reason for building barriers in a place which does not need one. This reflects his trust on his neighbour and hence makes the building of barriers unnecessary (Davis & Rose, 70). He further questions as to what he “was walling in or walling out” and whom he “was like to give offence”.
Traditions in promoting and restricting neighbourliness
The poem reflects two different opinions and at the same time helps the reader to understand the role of traditions in both restricting and promoting neighbourliness. Traditions are very important as they help in shaping the personality and values of a human being. However, it is necessary to change with changing times and do away with traditions which may cause harm. It is important for one to question before blindly following traditions as some of them may be averse to promote neighbourliness. Simply following traditions, as is the case with the first farmer, may restrict neighbourliness. It is essential to interact and keep good relations with neighbours and at the same time maintain certain amount of dignity and respect towards one another. Some traditions may be degrading and lead to adverse relations, and hence, it is necessary to question customs and traditions before blindly embracing and following them.
The second farmer sarcastically addresses the obstinate neighbour to be like an “old stone-savage armed”. He further maintains that the first farmer does not understand that nature does not like any boundaries and this is portrayed by the lines “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down”. In other words, the wall is a portrayal of both necessity as well as a menace. The wall is instrumental in making “good neighbours” (Watson, 654).
The reflective and unconventional farmer justifies his argument by maintaining that his apple trees will not eat up his neighbour’s pine cones. These lines are full of sarcasm which subtly hints of a possible tension between the neighbours and also explains the reason for the wall to be repaired. In metaphysical terms, the existence of the boundary wall signifies both bygone eras as well as a complicated relational obstacle between the neighbours. The wall’s fallacy is suggested in the poem by the ideas of folklore and fantasy. The poet almost touches on the topic of elves. A deeper analysis of the poem helps the reader to understand that the subjects of folklore and fantasy has been used to suggest the age old rituals and traditions which further helps in distinguishing the good from the evil. The poem, thus, portrays the importance of traditions and rituals in shaping as well as deterring relations between neighbours.
Davis, M.H. & Rose, E.L. “Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”: a lesson in human understanding”. The High School Journal, 26.3 (1943): 69 – 72. Print.
Watson, C.N. “Frost’s wall: the view from the other side”. The New England Quarterly, 44.4 (1971): 653 – 656. Print.