Robert Frost's poetry is always simple and direct, yet strangely deep. Everyone can read into his poem but with different kind of expression. Frost has been discovering the world. He likes to explore relationships between individuals and between people and nature. One of his famous poems, 'Mending Wall', reveals his feelings and ideas about community, life and imagination.
In New Hampshire, where Frost's house was, there was a stonewall. This stonewall was the inspiration for the poem "Mending Wall". It was here that Frost used to repair this wall with his neighbor Napoleon Guay, who always says: "Good fences make good neighbors." In his poem 'Mending Wall', the persona and the neighbor are mending a wall that separates their properties. The most interesting statement in this poem: "Good fences make good neighbors" (line 25) is a paradox, which attracts our attention and lead us to further discussion on Frost's intention to write this poem. Every winter, the wall fell down and every spring, the persona and the neighbor met together to mend it. It has somehow become an entertainment for them, as stated in line 21, "Oh, just another kind of outdoor game". Later, the persona found that there were no reasons to mend the wall at all, and this arises to the central theme of the poem. The persona kept on questioning the reasons for mending since they do not keep any animals. In the poem, it says:
Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows,
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.(Line 31-34)
If a wall needs repair every year, it is not a good fence. Yet, it does make good neighbors because it brings the men together every spring. Maybe the neighbor's father had this very same intention too. The two characters meet and know more about each other when they work on the wall together. This explanation is quite ironic because the wall is meant to isolate them, but is also a common ground that connects them. And the persona's words also possess some kind of irony in it because though he was somehow criticizing the neighbor for mending the wall, he was doing it too. As Rober Poirier claims that 'The real significance of the famous poem 'Mending Wall' is that it suggests how much for Frost freedom is contingent upon some degree of restriction.' If the persona is actually Frost himself, he is then subject to a restriction for what he wants to do. He has no choices. He suffers because he has to rebuild the wall with his neighbor every year. But the point is, if the neighbor could not feel that they were in the dark, there would be no possibility of light for both of them. In order to change the whole situation, the neighbor needs to think it over what's the mean of having the wall between them. But still, the persona has very limited control to the situation.
"Mending Wall is about the opposite impulse which is to fence yourself in, to form relationships that are really exclusive."
(Richard's book, p.7)
'Mending wall' is a poem about the world. It is about our community. The wall represents what we as individuals are blocking out. Frost questioned why the neighbor insists upon blocking their properties, though there are only trees inside. Maybe the man was just trying to keep out people, or even the world in order to feel more secure. The neighbor and the persona know that they have to rely on each other. But at the same time they are building walls to protect themselves. Here, the Chinese proverb "A wicked heart is unwanted, but a defensive heart is vital" can very well support their behavior.
In line 21 "Oh, just another kind of outdoor game", it suggested that since the outdoors game involves some kinds of rules, it also can applies to the situation that people must know the rules in the community and play the game properly. It is 'the wall' in our mind that acts...
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