In "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost, what is the narrator's opinion of the wall?

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Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The narrator opens with a line that tells us that he finds the idea of a stone wall unnatural and unfriendly, saying,  "Something there is that doesn't love a wall" (line 1).  He notes that nature is constantly trying to destroy the wall, with the cycle of freezing and heating that makes the elements of the wall contract and expand and create gaps.  He explains that there is a perfectly good natural wall made of apple trees on his side and pine trees on his neighbor's side. He says, "My apple trees will never get across/And eat the cones under his pines" (lines 25-26). There are no cows on either side that need to be penned in.  He believes that before a wall is built, someone should ask why it should be built, who or what is meant to be kept out and whom it might offend.  All of this is meant to set himself up in direct contrast to his neighbor, who believes "Good fences make good neighbors" (line 27) and insists on the ritual of annual wall repair. The narrator characterizes his neighbor's actions as dark and hostile, "Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top/In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed" (lines 39-40).  It is fair to say that the narrator does not like walls very much if they serve no purpose but to create an unneighborly barrier, and that nature itself does not favor the idea of the wall.  It is also fair to say that the narrator is not overly fond of his neighbor, and this poem is meant to poke gentle fun at the neighbor's attitude. 

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