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Do you agree with the speaker in "Mending Wall"?In the poem, "Mending Wall",...

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miladi | Student, College Freshman | (Level 2) eNoter

Posted April 28, 2008 at 10:57 PM via web

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Do you agree with the speaker in "Mending Wall"?

In the poem, "Mending Wall", written by Robert Frost, the speaker says that he wants to break the wall. Do you agree with him?

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sagesource | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted April 28, 2008 at 11:45 PM (Answer #2)

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Well, the speaker doesn't exactly want the wall down: "Something...wants it down."

The poem shows two neighbours coming together for the annual rebuilding of the wall between their properties. Although the speaker seems dubious about what function the wall has, it is he who initiates the rebuilding ("I let my neighbour know...") as well as doing irregular repairs on his own initiative ("I have come after them [hunters] and made repair"). But he also dismisses the rebuilding as "just another kind of outdoor game." Why does he play?

I think the answer is that while he may feel the wall should be unnecessary, he also needs to keep his neighbour at a distance. He teases the man, but is wary of him and cannot understand his clinging to "his father's saying" about good neighbours needing good fences. Near the end, the narrator slips into a defensive tone,

I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees

This evokes the original function of walls, from the Garden of Eden onward, to keep "darkness" outside, away from human civilization.

To sum up, nature and growth work against walls, but the ever-present threat from the incomprehensible otherness of our fellow humans preserves walls as a guarantee that we know our bounds and will keep our peace by respecting each others' limits.

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lorraine-luna | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Honors

Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:36 AM (Answer #3)

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Of course, I agree with him.  The walls symbolize gap among people caused by either problems or cultural differences.  I commend the speaker for his desire to break the wall because he knows that it will be of help to promote harmonic relationships among people.

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jazzie1 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 29, 2008 at 6:28 AM (Answer #4)

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I've never read the poem so maybe you should write a thesis so others could understand the question and could answer upon their desision. PS sorry if I affended you in any way.

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lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted April 29, 2008 at 6:40 AM (Answer #5)

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Like every animal 'Man' also would like to zealously guard his 'territory'. It is this 'territorial instinct' which compels the two neighbours to rebuild their wall. The narrator who considers himself to be a rationalist expresses his misgivings about the whole exercise, nevertheless like all human beings he also succumbs to the 'territorial instinct'. So although the speaker as a rational human being  would like to break the wall his animal instinct to mark and protect his territory prevents him from actually doing it. The wall is a necessary evil which cannot just be broken down by intellectual reasoning.

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linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:54 PM (Answer #6)

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Well, the speaker doesn't exactly want the wall down: "Something...wants it down."

The poem shows two neighbours coming together for the annual rebuilding of the wall between their properties. Although the speaker seems dubious about what function the wall has, it is he who initiates the rebuilding ("I let my neighbour know...") as well as doing irregular repairs on his own initiative ("I have come after them [hunters] and made repair"). But he also dismisses the rebuilding as "just another kind of outdoor game." Why does he play?

I think the answer is that while he may feel the wall should be unnecessary, he also needs to keep his neighbour at a distance. He teases the man, but is wary of him and cannot understand his clinging to "his father's saying" about good neighbours needing good fences. Near the end, the narrator slips into a defensive tone,

I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees

This evokes the original function of walls, from the Garden of Eden onward, to keep "darkness" outside, away from human civilization.

To sum up, nature and growth work against walls, but the ever-present threat from the incomprehensible otherness of our fellow humans preserves walls as a guarantee that we know our bounds and will keep our peace by respecting each others' limits.

You've done a fabulous job of interpreting the poem, but I really don't think Frost meant for us to work so hard to understand his poetry. Read the poem again. See if you catch the speaker's displeasure at having to repair the wall every year. He'd rather leave it alone, let the gap grow. It's his neighbor who thinks good fences make good neighbors. Frost would be much more likely to sit on the wall and contemplate the nature around him. He did like his privacy; if you've ever seen how isolated his cabin at Bread Loaf is, you'll understand that. However, he also liked company.

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sullymonster | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:40 PM (Answer #7)

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The famous quote from this poem has been mentioned above "good fences make good neighbors."  However, this is an ironic statement.  The narrator is critical of his neighbor for constantly repairing the wall that keeps people out.  Frost was commenting on society's tendency to alienate others, to be wary of the unknown, and thus to cause the breakdown in communities.  I do agree with him.  We close ourselves off so much from each other that we often turn away much needed support.  How wonderful would the world be if we didn't have "borders"? 

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a-b | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:53 PM (Answer #8)

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Well, the speaker doesn't exactly want the wall down: "Something...wants it down."

The poem shows two neighbours coming together for the annual rebuilding of the wall between their properties. Although the speaker seems dubious about what function the wall has, it is he who initiates the rebuilding ("I let my neighbour know...") as well as doing irregular repairs on his own initiative ("I have come after them [hunters] and made repair"). But he also dismisses the rebuilding as "just another kind of outdoor game." Why does he play?

I think the answer is that while he may feel the wall should be unnecessary, he also needs to keep his neighbour at a distance. He teases the man, but is wary of him and cannot understand his clinging to "his father's saying" about good neighbours needing good fences. Near the end, the narrator slips into a defensive tone,

I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees

This evokes the original function of walls, from the Garden of Eden onward, to keep "darkness" outside, away from human civilization.

To sum up, nature and growth work against walls, but the ever-present threat from the incomprehensible otherness of our fellow humans preserves walls as a guarantee that we know our bounds and will keep our peace by respecting each others' limits.

You've done a fabulous job of interpreting the poem, but I really don't think Frost meant for us to work so hard to understand his poetry. Read the poem again. See if you catch the speaker's displeasure at having to repair the wall every year. He'd rather leave it alone, let the gap grow. It's his neighbor who thinks good fences make good neighbors. Frost would be much more likely to sit on the wall and contemplate the nature around him. He did like his privacy; if you've ever seen how isolated his cabin at Bread Loaf is, you'll understand that. However, he also liked company.

I disagree with the first part of your post-- I think Frost put lots of layers into his poems in order to stimulate the minds of his readers.

Furthermore, what the poet intended and what we take from his words can often be different things and that can be wonderful. I think Frost might agree! I do like your analysis though, I'll need to visit Bread Loaf it seems!

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 2, 2008 at 7:26 AM (Answer #9)

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I do agree.  Walls make good neighbors in that what is and should be private can remain that way.  The wall is still low enough that the neigbors can converse over the top of it and also work together each year to maintain it's integrity.  There are only a select few people whom I would want to disclose everything to--everyone else is a friendly acquaintance to whom I speak and disclose only the parts of my life I want them to know.

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kwoo1213 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted May 2, 2008 at 9:56 AM (Answer #10)

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I, too, found this part of the poem ironic in that the narrator of the poem seems to be poking fun (being sarcastic) about the fact that the neighbor keeps mending the wall.  A wall is simply a barrier that really cannot keep people off of each others' property, if one is realistic about it.  One could climb over the wall, walk around it in some instances, etc.  I think one of Frost's points is that "walls" are internal, realistically.  They are symbols that represent the ones we put up in ourselves.

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lachhlan | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted May 29, 2011 at 8:19 PM (Answer #11)

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Yes

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