In Mending a Wall We Drive a Wedge

In Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall,” he uses philosophical ponderings and a common man’s language as tones in order to understand why the neighbor believes so firmly that “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.” He shows his lack of understanding of the neighbor’s point of view, but also shows how he questions it and wants to understand it. He uses details that allow anyone to relate and understand his philosophical query.

The point of view in “Mending Wall” shifts as the poem progresses. It begins with an overview of the wall and how the years wear it down, moves to the annual rebuilding of the wall between the persona of the neighbor and finally ends with the perspective of the persona wanting to know why he builds this wall every year. “Gaps even two can pass abreast.” and “Where they have left not one stone on a stone.” Show the how the hunters and nature break down the bridge naturally. It symbolizes nature, fate, attempting to break down this barrier between man, between neighbors. “Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top in each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.” and “He will not go behind his father’s saying.” show a different and more powerful point of view. It is the representation of the neighbor as a savage brute carrying his stone, unrefined and uncivilized, putting up walls between companionship. This gives the persona a new perspective, realizing that the neighbor, the savage, does not know why he builds the wall. It reveals that it is only because of tradition that this wall is built. The final perspective the poem ends with is the persona’s conclusion that the old ways are not always the best.

The persona’s use of detail emphasizes the philosophical quandary within the persona. “We wear our fingers rough with handling them.” and “And set the wall between us as we go” are examples showing that the wall is a pointless and taxing labor. Nature brings down the wall every year in order to breach a symbolic barrier but it also serves as a reminder that the two people must work hard to separate themselves from one another. The neighbor accepts this without hesitation even though he has no good reason except for his belief that “Good fences make good neighbors.” Other details, “He is all pine and I am apple orchard.” and “But here there are no cows.” point out two very important reasons why this wall is arbitrary and useless. Their tress cannot mix and they have no livestock that will wander across an open field. It is only by their voluntary choice that they make this wall.

The persona never finds an answer to his moral quest but does begin to see that perhaps the old ways and traditions are pointless and silly. They divide people from one another and force humanity into further isolation. The point of view shows us that some realize the problem, but also shows that some will never realize it. The details ultimately confirm that the wall has no real purpose, except for its symbolism of the action of keeping someone out. “Mending Wall” takes a symbol of strength and protection and questions whether or not it really is for keeping others outside, or keeping ourselves inside.