Contradictions in Mending Wall
"The strength of 'Mending Wall', one of Frost's most often quoted poems, rests upon a contradiction. Its two famous lines oppose each other. The poem maintains that: " 'Something there is that doesn't love a wall.'
"But it also insists:
" 'Good fences make good neighbours.'
"The contradiction is logical, for the opposing statements are uttered by two different types of people and both are right. Man cannot live without walls, boundaries, limits and particularly self-limitations; yet he resents all bonds and is happy at the downfall of any barrier. In 'Mending Wall' the boundary line is useless: " 'There where it is we do not need the wall.'
"And, to emphasize the point, the speaker adds playfully:
" 'He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.'
"Some readers have found far-reaching implications in this poem. They have found that it states one of the greatest problems of our time: whether national walls should be made stronger for our protection, or whether they should be let down, since they cramp our progress toward understanding and eventual brotherhood. Other readers have read 'Mending Wall' as a symbolic poem. In the voices of the two men the younger, whimsical, 'new-fashioned' speaker and the old-fashioned farmer who replies with his one determined sentence, his inherited maxim - some readers hear the clash of two forces: the spirit of revolt, which challenges tradition, and the spirit of restraint, which insists that conventions must be upheld, built up and continually rebuilt, as a matter of principle. "The poet himself frowns upon such symbolic interpretations. He denies that the poem says anything more than it seems to say. The contradiction is the heart of the poem. It answers itself in the paradox of people, in neighbors and competitors, in the contradictory nature of man."
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