Mending Wall Symbolism
What are the symbols that Frost presents in "Mending Wall"?
The speaker tells us that his neighbor on the other side of the wall has a grove of pine trees while his own property contains an apple orchard. Pine trees are, of course, coniferous, and they do not shed their needles in the fall but keep them all year round. Apple trees are deciduous, and they shed their leaves in the fall, growing apple blossoms in the spring and then apples in the summer and early fall. Pine trees seem so serious and dour compared to the joyful burst of flowers put forth by apple trees, as though they are quite prim compared to the apple trees that grow flowers, then fruit, the lose their leaves, then do it all again. When the narrator says that "Spring is the mischief in [him]" a few lines later, it makes it seem as though the apple trees symbolize him, while the pine trees symbolize his neighbor. He doesn't like the wall, as he says, multiple times, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall, / That wants it down." The apple trees lead a rather messy life compared to the pine trees. They shed leaves and flowers and fruit, and they live lives that seem full of excitement and change; just like their flowers and fruit burst forth from them, the narrator doesn't mind change and resents the idea of confinement. Pine trees, on the other hand, don't really change much and appear orderly and rather straightforward, by comparison; they seem so much like the neighbor who also seems serious and orderly and wants his boundary so meticulously maintained.
"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.
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.