Robert Frost sets the poem in the New England countryside in spring. The speaker and his neighbor are building a physical wall on the edge of their properties, but a wall of misunderstanding between the two is already in place. The speaker wants to engage his neighbor in debate and discussion, but the neighbor prefers quiet and refuses to argue. The images in the poem, though, invite the reader to imagine not only the relationship between this speaker and neighbor, but also the nature of relationships in general.
Frost also places emphasis on the point that it is not the neighbor (who believes that “good fences make good neighbors”) who initiates the ritual of mending the wall; rather, it is the speaker: “I let my neighbor know beyond the hill.” This suggests that “if fences do not ‘make good neighbors,’ the making of fences can,” for it makes for talk—even though the neighbor is hopelessly taciturn.