MENDING WALL (Poem) Robert Frost
Mending Wall Poem by Robert Frost
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
‘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’.
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.
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