How does knowledge of a poem's narrator enhance the reader and/or listener's understanding, interpretation and appreciation of the poem?

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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In any literary piece, it is essential to be aware of the narrator, because, as the person telling the story, the narrator's past and personal biases will certainly factor into how he or she relates events.  This is true whether one is working with a novel, play, short story, or poem.  For example, in Robert Frost's poem "The Mending Wall", it is essential to understanding the poem to recognize that the narrator is one of two New England landowners who meet every spring to repair the stone wall between their properties. The narrator, it seems, might be Frost himself, as he begins the poem in a fairly mild-mannered rumination on the nature of fences, drawing a metaphor of them as barriers between people and wondering whether or not fences in general, and the one he is working on in particular, are actually necessary.  He poses this question to his neighbor, who is having none of it, frustrating the narrator with his repeated comment "Good fences make good neighbors" while the poem's narrator pronounces the fellow "an old stone savage". 


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