How is Robert Frost successful in conveying the need for barriers in society in his poem "Mending Wall"?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The underlying idea of "good fences make good neighbors" is critical in understanding why barriers are essential in our society.  In a pluralistic, democratic society, a sphere of negative freedom (the right to be left alone, free from intrusion) is critical.  Each individual has their own sphere of rights (the speaker's apple orchards and his neighbor's pines), and the best way each can be preserved is with some demarcation or barrier to indicate a line that cannot, nor should not be crossed.  When the speaker's neighbors says for the second time, "Good fences make good neighbors," he seems to be saying it with a certain resolution that the ability to leave people alone is critical in understanding the preservation of rights.  Frost does a great job in proving this throughout the poem.  While he wonders, "what is being walled in and what is being walled out," he also realizes that the neighbor will not change, the mending wall will still be there, stones piled high.  While the speaker might want a realm of barriers to be removed, the reality is that if one person creates this barrier, the other, by definition, has to accept it.  The best way for the preservation of our plots of lands or rights to be preserved is with these barriers.  When we have our own sense of self maintained, then we live out the idea that "good fences make good neighbors."