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What are the symbols that Frost presents in "Mending Wall"?

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bilobate | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted January 25, 2011 at 9:34 PM via web

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What are the symbols that Frost presents in "Mending Wall"?



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howesk | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted January 25, 2011 at 10:04 PM (Answer #1)

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The primary symbol in "Mending Wall" is the wall bordering the narrator's property. The physical barrier of the wall represents the psychological or symbolic barrier between the narrator and his neighbor. The season of Spring, which deteriorates the wall, could symbolize the narrator's repressed feeling that he would like the wall to come down and to have a closer relationship with his neighbor, or, conversely, it could also reinforce his desire to keep the wall in place since he is fixing it throughout the poem. The neighbor could symbolize the narrator's distrust of society, since he shows that he would like to remain separated by the fence.

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susan3smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted January 25, 2011 at 10:24 PM (Answer #2)

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"The Mending Wall" is a poem that contains many symbols, the chief of which is the mending wall itself. The mending wall can represent separation or alienation--the walls that people construct to separate themselves from others:

"Good fences make good neighbors."

Or it can symbolize the adherence to ritual and routine even when the ritual or routine  no longer serves any purpose: 

There where it is we do not need the wall

In addition, it may also symbolize a unity or connection between people as both neighbors come together each spring to repair the wall. 

The characters in this poem are symbolic as well.  The neighbor is the symbol of tradition. He will

not go behind his father's saying

while the speaker is the symbol of creativity and rebellion:

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out.

These symbolic elements work nicely in the poem to show the complexities of human interactions.  A balance certainly is needed between connection and separation; ritual and whimsy, following tradition and questioning it.   

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