What are the characters doing in Robert Frost's "Mending Wall"?

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A couple of neighbors out in the country are going through the annual ritual of mending the wall that divides their land. Every spring, the two men walk the full length of the wall together and make any repairs that need to be made. In some parts of the wall, there are holes where hunters and their dogs have knocked over stones in pursuit of rabbits.

Even so, one of the neighbors, the speaker of the poem, thinks the whole business is a complete waste of time. It's not as if there are any cows to be contained; there are just apple trees and pines.

But the speaker's neighbor is insistent that the wall must be maintained every spring. He subscribes wholeheartedly to his father's saying that good fences make good neighbors. The speaker tries valiantly to make him question the veracity of such an old saw, but his neighbor won't budge. It seems that he's lived his life by this principle and that he's too old, too set in his ways, to change now. He's stuck in the past, and so long as that's the case, he'll continue to insist that the speaker joins him in this annual wall-mending ritual.

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