The speaker of a poem is referred to as the persona. Although as readers we often imagine a poem to be narrated by the author himself, that is not always the case. In The Mending Wall, Robert Frost has created a character--a persona separate from himself--to narrate.
We have here an English country landowner facing the sorry spring task of replacing all the fallen parts of his stone fence, so he is not in the most cheerful of moods. Yet he is not one to overtly complain about things, and clearly he is a hard worker, since he is out there doing it, despite his belief that the fence is unnecessary. In fact, it seems that the only reason he comes out each spring to repair it is at the wish of his neighbor, who keeps pace with his repairs on the opposite side because he believes that “‘Good fences make good neighbors.’”
Rather, our narrator is logically questioning the why of it. He is open-minded to changing the tradition of keeping a fence between their two properties. The neighbor, however, holds to the tradition of his father, and simply repeats his favorite quote. In a snarky moment our narrator thinks, “My apple trees will never get across / And eat the cones under his pines,” plus they have no cows to keep in. He determines that if he was ever going to build a fence, first “I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offense.” So to some extent, our man is a bit offended by the wall.
Yet he also has a sense of humor about it all, rather than being bitterly angry. As he watches his neighbor on the other side, struggling with two handfuls of stone in the semi-darkness (presumably they have been repairing the fence all day), he likens him to a savage-looking caveman, “Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top / In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.” In the end the narrator is unable to convince his neighbor that the wall should be allowed to crumble, but the rebel in him still believes “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” He’s a persona we can all relate to for his willingness to question tradition through logic and humor.
And truth be told, this persona might not be so different from Frost himself, after all. Before he became a lucrative writer, he was a farmer for eleven years in Derry, New Hampshire. The 30-acre farm is said to have had a stone fence, as well. I can imagine a young Robert Frost, trudging through the mud with stones, composing poetry in his head.