?Mending Wall? by Robert Frost is a poem in which the characteristics of vocabulary, rhythm and other aspects of poetic technique combine in a fashion that articulates, in detail, the experience and the opposing convictions that the poem describes and discusses. The ordinariness of the rural activity is presented in specific description, and as so often is found in Frost?s poems, the unprepossessing undertaking has much larger implications. Yet his consideration of these does not disturb the qualities of accessible language and technique, which give the poem its unique flavor and persuasiveness. The poem works on two levels of realism and metaphor, with a balance as poised as the act of mending the all itself.
(themes) Perhaps one of the reasons that Frost remains one the best known and best loved American poets is that his themes are universal and attractive. They offer the reader affirmative resolutions for the conflicts dramatized in his life and his poetry. Readers, whether young or old, waging their own struggles against the constant threat of chaos in their life, find comfort and encouragement in many of Frost?s lines which are so cherished that they have become familiar quotations: ?Good fences make good neighbors?, ?Miles to go before I sleep.?
(theme) ?Mending Wall? is about boundaries. Frost, in a personal evaluation of this poem stated, ?Nationality is something I couldn?t live without. I played exactly fair in it. Twice I say ?Good fences?, twice I say ?Something there is??. While giving a reading of his poetry in Santa Fe, Frost called the ?Mending Wall? ?too New Englandish? and that mending wall is an occupation he used to follow. The neighbor in the poem is not a Yankee as represented, but is actually A French-Canadian who was very particular every spring about setting up the wall.
(theme/subject) Frost often stated that he felt ?spoken to? by nature. He called these incidents ?nature favors? and these favors served as inceptors of his poems. Many people refer to him as a nature poet, however there is always a person, a character in his nature poetry.
(subject/setting) Frost always claimed he wasn?t a nature poet and that there is almost always a person in the poem and that the poem is about the person, not about nature, which is usually beautifully described. Nature seemed to be Frost?s furniture.
(language/tone) Frost makes much of tone and depends upon the sound of the voice-tone to communicate the emphasis of the poem, such as the ?oh? and the hyphen in ?old-stone savage?. If you?ve ever heard a reading by Frost of Mending Wall you would notice that he stresses these lines, as well as ?I?d rather he said it for himself?. The tone of Mending Wall is an important factor in understanding the poem. Within these simple, yet complex lines Frost has incorporated the tone of remininces, reflection, sarcasm and irony.
(lang/tone) Much of the appeal of Mending Wall can be attributed to Frost?s use of language as it is spoken with a vocabulary which is natural and which includes the texture of the tongues from which it comes.
(lang/style) Frost?s poetry is deceptively simple but there is a deep mysterious underside which is very interesting. His craftsmanship, understanding of meter and form, his use of imagery, metaphor, psychology, religious connection, and understanding of man/woman and man/universe are what set his works apart.
(tone/language) Words in themselves do not convey meaning. Take for example two people who are speaking on opposite sides of a wall, whose voices can be heard but whose words cannot be distinquished. Even though the words do not carry, the sound of them does and the listener can catch the meaning of the conversation. This is because every meaning has a particular sound-posture, or to think of it in another way, the sense of meaning has a particular sound which each individual is instinctively familiar with and without at all being conscious of the exact words that are being used is able to understand the thought, idea or emotion that is being conveyed. Each sentence in the Mending Wall is not interesting merely in conveying a meaning of words, it does much more by conveying a meaning by its tone. If we were to go back far enough in history we would discover that the sound of sense (tone) existed before words, that there was something in
the voice or vocal gesture made by primitive man that conveyed a meaning to his companions before man developed a more elaborate method of communication. Native Americans have been said to have possessed a picture-language, a means of communicating by the sound of sense. This sound of sense, or the voice Frost gives to the personae of his characters is the most important, distinquishing and conspicuously insistent feature of not only Mending Wall but his other poetry
(style) Frost has provided to the common reader poems and writings that allow each of us to ponder the questions for which we must look to our morals and beliefs to find the answers, or to consider the ones he sometimes offers. It is this introspection that gives us comfort, regardless of subject or the answer.
(style) Mending Wall demonstrates Frost?s simultaneous command of lyrical verse, dramatic conversation and ironic commentary.
(imagery, style, structure) The poetry of Forst stimulates brief, pungent reactions in the reader. These reactions create interest for they whet not only the reader?s interest in Frost as a poet, but also in his poetry. (Go with ?Self? here ? the imagery he?s created for the characters ? their personalities, etc. (use sheet as guideline) (Self/personae) Frost poses as the literate, philosophical farmer ? a man of the earth, a hard boiled, yet reflective Yankee.
(SELF) Frost is the teller of the poem giving himself the ?self? of the (insert farmer here). He is the one that initiates the spring mending (insert line) and he also says that he has come alone and made repairs (insert hunting)?..expand on ?to have the rabbit out of hiding to please the yelping dogs?. Yet, we also get the impression that he wants the wall down when he scoffs at his neighbors saying ?good fences make good neighbors? (and also (I?d rather he said it himself). Throughout these lines Frost allies himself with both the wall builder and the wall destroyer, thus playing both sides of the fence.
(images) two old farmers ? one who sees the fence only for what it is (stones, work, a separating of physical boundaries); one who see the fence for what they represent ? the space, the distance, the walling in and walling out, the darkness inside each of us ? and who struggles with wanting the walls to stay down, while at the same time working to keep them up.
Style: Mending Wall is written in blank verse with a varying meter. Note how regular and tight the lines (insert 12-15 here) when the meaning is about tightness. Note the pun in line 34, ?And to whom I was like to give offence.? A-fence. Throughout the poem the form remains one long series of lines, without a break, like the wall itself.
(style) I believe that readers are drawn to Frost by the ability of his work to stimulate in them the ability to see the conflicts, the drama, the humor or the horror of reality in a way that makes sense based on their ability to clearly understand and share in the emotions the author intended.
(style/structure) Form is one of the most important characteristics in Frost?s poetry. He utilizes a variety of stanzaic forms, with formal relationships of rhyme to rhyme, line to line, and words that seem to talk back and forth to each other. To Frost it is apparent that form meant structure.
(End) What is it about Frost that makes him so universally appealing? As we read his poetry we only need look out our own window or look within ourselves to realize how familiary his thoughts seem to be to our own. Michigan Professor Morris P. Tilley in a February 1918 article on Frost stated, ?Frost cannot write unless he can hear in him the voices carrying on the conversation that he records?. It is the realism and richness of detail in Mending Wall that allows anyone, anywhere to see the very images, to experience the emotions that inspired the poem. The words are easy to read and on the surface, easy to understand. The interplay that goes on beyond the characters is genuine and familiar to anyone who has experienced the slight awkwardness between people who have never ventured beyond being casual acquaintances. To his readers, Frost appears to be a poet who knows about trees, farms, fences and still has managed to get an individualistic, fairly optimistic and American philosophy out of what he knows and writes about. Readers can sense that both his monologues, reflective thoughts or dramatic scenes come from his knowledge of people and each of these is written in a verse that uses, sometimes with absolute mastery, the rhythms of actual speech. Frost once said that he wanted to put down a few good poems that would be hard to get rid of. (check quote). I think he succeeded..
(something) An interesting side note is that when Frost spoke about his poetry, when asked to define poetry, he used metaphors such as ?a way out of something?. A word he would use 52 times in his poetry.
(something) Most references to God, heaven or ultimate seem to be superficial on their own and when looked at in context to their place in the work seem to raise more questions about belief and anything else.
The poem is about our natural tendency to build walls, to wall out neighbors, to defend ourselves from others, to want privacy and our ?space?. And then nation to nation we do the same by creating boundaries. We create imaginary borders to identify our tribe and we defend it. ?But something there is that doesn?t love a wall? that wants it down. We do that. For brief moments in time we take down the walls we?ve built around ourselves, we work, not at defending ourselves, but at allowing others to get close to us, to see inside of us only to start building the walls again. Mending Wall has all three levels: it is about a particular thing ? a wall. It is about Frost?s feeling about walls and its universal because it speaks to the way we all think and behave. (Frost?s quote about boundaries and nationality)
(Something) Note the use of the word ?something?. ?Something there is that doesn?t love a wall. (Frost?s use of this word in other writings). Something refers to a big, unknown unspeakable force ? God? (expand on this). Or it could refer to the fact that in New England the frost heaves the ground in the winter, much as ice cubes swell up. Anything made of stone or brick suffers because of the upward pressure. Also: In actuality, stone walls were never built between properties. As farmers would plow their fields the stone were unearthed and carried to the property line and dumped. I?m sure Frost was aware of these facts but didn?t really care about how the physical wall came about, for he uses this wall only in the metaphoric sense to describe the way we wall ourselves in, while not knowing what we might be walling out. In Mending Wall Frost has recognized the existence of a force that sends a powerful emotion, a groundswell under the barriers that human beings create around themselves in an attempt to break these barriers down.
Mending Wall has a man who both builds and repairs the wall, as well as works to topple the wall. He makes boundaries while at the same time trying to break them. That?s part of what makes this poem universally acceptable and enjoyable. Frost has described all of mankind.