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In "Mending Wall", Frost has counter-opposed the spirit of individualism with...

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retrosunshine | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 13, 2012 at 1:14 PM via web

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In "Mending Wall", Frost has counter-opposed the spirit of individualism with traditionalism. Elucidate.

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted January 15, 2012 at 7:42 AM (Answer #1)

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In "Mending Wall," the speaker is an individualist who does not necessarily agree with having a wall between the two neighbors. Indeed, the speaker questions the necessity of having a wall:

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 offence.

From a traditional standpoint, the neighbor insists that "good fences make good neighbors." To this response, the speaker accuses the neighbor as being an "old-stone savage armed," meaning that the neighbor believes in traditional methods of separation. The neighbor believes in the tradition that his father passed down to him. It has been a family tradition to have a wall between neighbors.

From the speaker's point of view, the wall is not serving a purpose. There are no cows which need to be fenced in. There are only apple trees and pine trees. The speaker is facetious when he says that his apple trees are not going to get among his neighbor's pine trees.

Truly, it is a matter of opinion. The speaker is an individualist who enjoys being playful with his neighbor. All in good humor, the speaker questions the neighbor about the necessity of the wall. In a firm response, the traditional neighbor just replies, "Good fences make good neighbors." The speaker finally gives up on the notion of changing the traditional neighbor's point of view:

In the last section of the poem, however, the speaker’s use of simile and metaphor turns more serious. When he is unable to draw his neighbor into a discussion, the speaker begins to see him as threatening and sinister—as carrying boulders by the top “like an old-stone savage armed,” as “mov[ing] in darkness” of ignorance and evil.

The neighbor is serious about the matter of keeping a wall between the two neighbors. He doesn't laugh or find it amusing. He stands firm in his tradtional view that "good fences make good neighbors."


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