In the poem "Mending wall", How does the poet (Robert Frost) view his neighbor? Is his neighbor practical, illogical, a good neighbor, or a traditionalist?

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jpn001 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Robert Frost's poem, Mending Wall, the speaker and his neighbor repair/rebuild the stone wall between their property in the spring of each year. The speaker of the poem ponders why they do this as they do not have livestock they need to keep on their own properties, and: 

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines

In the above quote and elsewhere in the poem, the speaker points out that the process of repairing and maintaining the wall is not for practical reasons. Thus, it is unlikely that the speaker would characterize his neighbor as 'practical'.

The speaker may find his neighbor to be 'illogical' in insisting the wall be maintained despite the lack of consequences to its absence, but the two times the neighbor is quoted in the poem seem to lead to the conclusion that the speaker views his neighbor as a 'traditionalist' rather than illogical.

The speaker twice quotes his neighbor's maxim that "Good fences make good neighbours." This quote is not based on practical or logical considerations, but rather on what appears to be traditional wisdom. Further, in the last three lines of the poem, the speaker reveals that his neighbor is repeating the saying of the neighbor's father. This reference back to the neighbor's father strongly supports the idea that the speaker sees his neighbor as a traditionalist, at least with respect to maintaining fences.

Finally, none of the above would indicate that the speaker does not believe his neighbor to be a 'good neighbor.' While the speaker questions the need for the wall, he nonetheless follows the ritual. In so doing, he seems to be acquiescing to his neighbor's maxim. Certainly, the mending ritual, if not the wall itself, helps the speaker and his neighbor remain good neighbors to each other.

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