In "Mending Wall," what does the wall mean to the speaker?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker would prefer not to have the wall since they have to mend it every year and neither neighbor has livestock.

The speaker does not like having the wall.  He finds it inconvenient and kind of pointless, since neither of the neighbors have livestock that might cross from one person’s land to the other.  It also needs repair each year, which is annoying.

Every spring, the speaker and his neighbor meet for a day to repair the wall.  Its stones need to be replaced.

I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each. 

The speaker’s point is that there is no real reason to have the wall there at all, let alone to keep it in good repair.  The neighbor claims that good fences make good neighbors.  He clearly prefers some separation between them.  The speaker doesn’t see the point.  He has apple trees, and his neighbor has pine trees.  The trees are not going to run away or interfere with the other’s yard like livestock would do.

The speaker is skeptical of the idea that the fence is helping them be good neighbors.  He does not see it as any more than an inconvenience.

He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

"Why do they make good neighbours?  

Apparently, this is an old adage of the neighbor’s passed down from his father.  So the speaker agrees, and every year they mend the wall.  It is the best way to keep the peace between them, since that is what the neighbor wants.

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