+2 UNIT 2 LESSON 1 MENDING WALL (Poem) Robert Frost

MENDING WALL (Poem) Robert Frost

 

Mending Wall Poem by Robert Frost

CRITICAL APPRECIATION OF MENDING WALL

PREPARED BY SAJEENA SHUKKOOR, HSST (ENGLISH), TRIVANDRUM

Robert Frost is the Pulitzer winning American poet who is well known for colloquial style in his poems. ‘Mending Wall’ is a dramatic narrative poem composed in blank verse. It reflects on the man-made barriers prevalent in the contemporary society.

The poem deplores the restrictions man creates in human relations through walls and exhorts bridging gaps among relations. The narrator asserts that some force in nature condemns man-made barriers the reason why walls built between two neighbours tend to crumble. Moreover hunters widen the gap in the walls to expose the rabbits hidden there. The poet feels it mysterious how the gaps are seen in spring, the mending time, even when no one has seen or heard them made. The speaker informs the neighbour residing beyond the hill to set the wall.

The two neighbours walk along the wall and engage in the tedious task of setting the wall. Each one picks the boulders on his side and sets it right. The whole ordeal of restoring the boulders back is difficult since the fallen rocks have assumed a variety of shapes, some like bread pieces; others like balls etc. The process irritates their fingers. The speaker finds the task an outdoor game. He wonders whether they need a wall to separate an apple orchard from a pine orchard. But the neighbour insists on saying that good fences make good neighbours. The narrator becomes more amazed since there are no cows to encroach upon the neighbour’s orchard. He likes his neighbour state that it is elves that does not like a wall. It seems to the narrator that his neighbor gropes in darkness like the old stone-age man with the stone in his arms. The neighbour is adamant in his father’s instruction that ‘good fences make good neighbours’ .

The theme of the poem, alienation is an oft repeated theme in literature. But ‘Mending Wall’ becomes remarkable with its colloquial style which conveys the theme perfectly. This theme is all the more relevant in the modern world where interpersonal relations are tampered and tarnished mercilessly.

Robert Frost’s poem becomes a reminder to all since we forget the worth of relations. The poet’s message is clear. Maintaining friendly ties adds value to life. Nature also invokes harmonious coexistence among all beings. The poem moves from delight to wisdom. The speaker in the poem elaborates on the process of mending wall and then concludes with a paradoxical statement. The attitudes of broadness and narrowness towards living harmoniously are visible in this paradox. The tone of the poem is lighter with its conversational overtone.

The poem abounds with a flurry of poetic devices. The foremost among these is the metaphor of wall which stands for the barrier that isolates people. Another metaphor is that of the boulders which are ‘loaves’ and ‘balls’. The neighbour compared to an old stone savage is a beautiful simile. This simile becomes all the more forceful when he is represented as moving in darkness. When the poet speaks about a mysterious force which does not like the existence of the wall, we have instance of personification.

Wall, boulders, spring, darkness etc are all symbols. Wall stands for barrier while boulders are instruments of barriers. Spring is the season which induces pleasant feelings. It is apt to call the spring mending time. Darkness represents ignorance. Poetic effect is the outcome of these symbols.

Parallelism, the figure of speech that has a similar word order and structure in their syntax, can be seen in the line, “To each the boulders that have fallen to each”.

Another poetic technique used is pun. In the line “And to whom I was like to give offence”, the word ‘offence’ sounds like fence.

Juxtaposing the opposites is paradox. The two lines, ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’ and ‘Good fences make good neighbours’ contain superb paradoxes. There is an instance of allusion where there is a reference to ‘elves’, the tiny supernatural creatures drawn from folklore and myth.

All these poetic devices add depth and beauty to the poem. As far as rhyme scheme is concerned there is no definite pattern.

In conclusion, the poem deals with a relevant theme and conveys a powerful message. Humour and conversational tone contributes to the aesthetic value of the poem. The abundant use of poetic devices reinforces the theme and message. Thus, ‘Mending Wall’ becomes a call for amity and friendship.

PREPARED BY SAJEENA SHUKKOOR, HSST (ENGLISH), TRIVANDRUM

COMPARISON BETWEEN MENDING WALL AND GITANJALI

Mending Wall and Gitanjali are the two poems which deal with lofty thoughts and sublime themes. Robert Frost’s ‘Mending Wall’ is a dramatic narrative poem composed in blank verse. It reflects on the man-made barriers prevalent in the contemporary society. Tagore’s Gitanjali in eight lines represent the walls which narrow man’s mind within a shell.

The poem deplores the restrictions man creates in human relations through walls and exhorts bridging gaps among relations. The narrator asserts that some force in nature condemns man- made barriers the reason why walls built between two neighbours tend to crumble. Moreover hunters widen the gap in the walls to expose the rabbits hidden there. The poet feels it mysterious how the gaps are seen in spring, the mending time, even when no one has seen or heard them made. The speaker informs the neighbour residing beyond the hill to set the wall. The two neighbours walk along the wall and engage in the tedious task of setting the wall. Each one picks the boulders on his side and sets it right. The whole ordeal of restoring the boulders back is difficult since the fallen rocks have assumed a variety of shapes, some like bread pieces; others like balls etc. The process irritates their fingers.

The speaker finds the task an outdoor game. He wonders whether they need a wall to separate an apple orchard from a pine orchard. But the neighbour insists on saying that good fences make good neighbours. The narrator becomes more amazed since there are no cows to encroach upon the neighbour’s orchard. He likes his neighbour state that it is elves that does not like a wall. It seems to the narrator that his neighbour gropes in darkness like the old stone- age man with the stone in his arms. The neighbour is adamant in his father’s instruction that ‘good fences make good neighbours’.

Gitanjali is a lament on seclusion. The poet realizes that he enclosed his self within himself after giving a name. Then he finds himself busy building a wall around him. As the wall rises up he lost sight of his true self. He feels proud of the wall which he plasters with dust and sand. He takes care that not a single hole should left. All this care makes him all the more forgetful of his,true being.

As far as the themes of both the poems are concerned, one can see that they are complementary. Both the poets condemn separation and isolation and want to break the wall which is a destructive force.

In both the poems, the speakers are aware of the need for breaking the barriers of alienation. In Mending Wall, the fault is with the neighbour while in Gitanjali the fault lies on the speaker himself. The message of the poets is clear; not to restrict ourselves to our personal desires.

The poem ‘Mending Wall’ moves from delight to wisdom. The speaker in the poem elaborates on the process of mending wall and then concludes with a paradoxical statement. The attitudes of broadness and narrowness towards living harmoniously are visible in this paradox.

The poem Gitanjali delights us with its wisdom. The tone of the ‘Mending Wall’ is lighter with its conversational overtone. But ‘Gitanjali’ is highly serious and sober in tone.

Frost’s ‘Mending Wall’ abounds with a flurry of poetic techniques. The foremost among these is the metaphor of wall which stands for the barrier that isolates people. Another metaphor is that of the boulders which are ‘loaves’ and ‘balls’. The neighbour compared to an old stone savage is a beautiful simile. This simile becomes all the more forceful when he is represented as moving in darkness. When the poet speaks about a mysterious force which does not like the existence of the wall, we have instance of personification.

Wall, boulders, spring, darkness etc are all symbols. Wall stands for barrier while boulders are instruments of barriers. Spring is the season which induces pleasant feelings. It is apt to call the spring mending time. Darkness represents ignorance. Poetic effect is the outcome of these symbols.

Parallelism, the figure of speech that has a similar word order and structure in their syntax, can be seen in the line, “To each the boulders that have fallen to each”.

Another poetic technique used is pun. In the line “And to whom I was like to give offence”, the word ‘offence’ sounds like fence.

Juxtaposing the opposites is paradox. The two lines, ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’ and ‘Good fences make good neighbours’ contain superb paradoxes. There is an instance of allusion where there is a reference to ‘elves’, the tiny supernatural creatures drawn from folklore and myth.

Though short, the poem Gitanjali also extensively uses symbols and metaphors. The wall becomes the central metaphor of separation and isolation. Other symbols are dungeon, plaster, sky, hole etc. The sky stands for pride and arrogance while plaster and dungeon are representatives of alienation. The gap in Mending Wall and hole in Gitanjali are little forces which unite human beings.

All these poetic devices add depth and beauty to these poems. As far as rhyme scheme is concerned there is no definite pattern in both the poems.

In conclusion, both the poems deal with a relevant theme – the theme of alienation and convey powerful messages. The poets are sad because every man becomes an island. These poems carry a pessimistic mood. ‘Mending Wall’ is lighter in vein while Gitanjali is highly serious. In obvious terms, both the poems are critiques of selfish divisions in personal relations. Humour and conversational tone are the hallmarks of ‘Mending Wall’ while philosophical thoughts are the salient features of ‘Gitanjali’. Thus in close analysis these are the elements of resemblance.

PREPARED BY SAJEENA SHUKKOOR, HSST (ENGLISH), TRIVANDRUM

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Sample Questions and Answers

* BEGINNING OF THE POEM : The poem has an abrupt and dramatic beginning which has a conversational tone. Generally to say about the poem it mixes up the thoughts which are narrow worldly and selfish with the thoughts of wisdom and philosophy which are broad universal and selfless.

* COMMENT ON ‘HUNTERS’ : “The work of hunters is another thing”

The poet is addressing the little children chasing some animals like rabbit along with their dogs. The poet here uses no past tense which means it is a usual activity of the poet to keep away the mischievous children from destroying the wall/fence/boundary.

* READING THE LINES ”WALLING IN …….WALLING OUT” (What I was walling in or walling out) AND THE IDEA OF ‘OFFENSE’ IN THE POEM ‘MENDING WALL’ : Before the wall was built, the poet used to locate the objects geographically around as his and as not his with his neighbour’s generosity. Both showed equal respect and concern. But the wall built makes an offense questioning that purity of love, respect, and relation existing between the poet and his neighbour. Another offense it makes is to the openness/limitlessness of this world.

* ABOUT THE ENDING : (he says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbours’) The poet towards the end of the poem, says that he has failed to convince his neighbour of the need of destruction of the wall between them. The neighbour stubbornly sticks to the old saying ” good fences make good neighbours”. At this the poet feels that his neighbour is equal to an uncivilised man of the stone age. The poet gets this image of ‘an old-stone savage armed’ seeing his neighbour walking with a stone in his hand.

* SIGNIFICANCE OF THE WORD “DARKNESS” IN THE POEM : The word “darkness” is suggestive of pain, sadness, bad experiences, night, all the negativity, senselessness and an age marked by ignorance. Here the word indicates the negativity in human relations based on certain conditions as well as man’s (neighbour’s) ignorance.

* COMMENT ON “SOMETHING” : The word “something” comes twice in the poem ‘Mending Wall’. The poet attaches too much importance to the word “something”. From the beginning itself he connects a mysterious air to it. But it is in the materialistic/worldly/physical sense he is doing so at first. For instance the “something”may mean the heat of sunlight , the cold winter(climactic changes), the mischief of little children, their dog etc. But later a digression comes in. Thus “something” comprises meanings related to the non-physical; spiritual world. For example, it means ‘the elves’; the mischief of some mysterious, invisible powers working to destroy the wall/fence.

* COMMENT ON THE TITLE ‘MENDING WALL’ : The title of the poem revolves around the major activity of ‘mending’ a wall by the poet and his neighbour. But on a deeper level of understanding, the title may bring more meanings. Firstly ‘mending’ can be taken as a verb thus suggesting an action of repairing the wall. Secondly ‘mending’ can be taken as an adjective where we get the idea that it is the wall’ that mends and not the poet or any neighbour. ‘The wall’ repairs the relation between human beings. The poet’s importance is felt by his neighbour and the neighbour’s importance is felt by the poet only in the presence of ‘the wall’. The wall makes individuals indispensable from each other.

There is silent relation between two persons;two groups;two countries if there is a wall /fence/border. Even if there is enmity between two neighbours it is the wall that makes them neighbours. No distant friend can demand that place. The wall has thus immense importance in the poem. It connects and separates simultaneously.

Another related theme is the incessant tasks in life. The activity of mending the wall as well as the wall’s destruction does not end. The poet and the neighbour need to mend it during every spring time. The action connects to the Greek Sisyphean task of pushing boulders up a hill, only to roll it down again. Similar version is found in the myth of “Naranathu Bhranthan” in connection with the locally spread and oft-told tale “Parayi Petta Panthirukulam” in Kerala, Valluvanadu region.

The purpose and purposelessness; connection and separation; time and timelessness, plays and pauses are well delineated in the action of ‘mending’. The title is highly wise, philosophical, and too pregnant with meanings.

Prepared by Smitha K, ghss kattoor, Thrissur

Note

Introduction

‘Mending Wall’ is a beautiful poem written by Robert Frost in a style of a natural speech by using blank verse.

A stone wall separates the speaker’s – the poet’s- property from his neighbour’s. In spring they meet and jointly make repairs. The speaker sees no reason for the wall to be kept. He does not believe in walls for the sake of walls. But the neighbour stands with the old saying, ‘Good fences make good neighbours’.

Symbols used

Plenty of symbols are used throughout this poem. The wall is the shining star of this poem. It unites as well as separates our speaker and his neighbour. Nature is a silent character in this poem. Similarly tradition seems to the silent subject.

Poetic diction

The apple trees are momentarily personified in this poem.

The poet uses a simile in the line ‘like an old savage armed’ – a caveman ready for battle.

The poem is written in blank verse and varies its metre in some lines to get a conversational style.

There are no stanza break, end rhymes or rhyming pattern, but many of end-words share assonance; eg wall, bill, balls, etc.

Internal rhymes are subtle.

There is no strange vocabulary or three syllable words except ‘another.’

Importance of Title

The title makes us think that the wall is a supernatural thing and it refers to the ritual that our speaker and his neighbour undergo every spring to fix the wall. The title draws our attention to the star of the poem ‘the wall’.

Prepared by Thomas a a

Edited by Smitha K

GHSS Kattoor, Thrissur

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