In “Mending Wall,” what is the speaker’s attitude to the adage, “Good fences make good neighbors”? (lines 27 and 45)

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The speaker here does not give the old adage much value --he surmises that the saying became popular where a good fence would keep livestock out of growing crop fields and thus keep the neighbors from quarreling.  But in this particular location, where the neighbors have met to repair the fence, the neighbors only were separating two orchards, and the narrator points out that the adage makes no sense here. In a larger sense, Frost is suggesting that allsuch old adages should be reexamined, and that his early New England upbringing should also be scrutinized in light of modern thinking.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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The speaker questions the validity of even having a wall, and sees no real need for it; in fact, he goes further in asserting that "Something there is doesn't love a wall." He sees it as an annual fix-it ritual; he would be content to let the hunters and the winter break it down. However, his neighbor in expressing that "good fences make good neighbors" might be implying that both should carefully delineate their respective fields so there's no conflict between them.  He may also be suggesting that there's some sociability working together to repair the winter damage -- in springtime rural New England, neighbors may have gone all winter without seeing each other, and this spring ritual might have been one of their few chances to meet.


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