What are the effects of being a follower, as suggested by Robert Frost's "Mending Wall"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The speaker of Robert Frost's “Mending Wall ” recounts his annual experience with his neighbor as they meet to repair the wall that separates their respective properties. The speaker expresses some interest in tearing down the wall instead of constantly having to repair it. He notes that it...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The speaker of Robert Frost's “Mending Wall” recounts his annual experience with his neighbor as they meet to repair the wall that separates their respective properties. The speaker expresses some interest in tearing down the wall instead of constantly having to repair it. He notes that it is an unnecessary structure, because the trees on each property can never encroach upon the other. However, he is unable to persuade his neighbor, who does not care to analyze the situation in depth.

The speaker compares the neighbor to “an old-stone savage” who “moves in darkness.” These phrases suggest that the neighbor does not think for himself but instead follows what has always been done. The neighbor refuses to go against his own father’s idea that "good fences make good neighbors." The speaker feels that the neighbor’s idea is antiquated and does not apply to the present, but he is powerless to convince the neighbor.

The poem suggests several effects of being a follower. For one, the neighbor never gives his own thoughts a chance to surface—nor is there any indication that he has his own thoughts on the matter. He remains fixed in the past and believes that what worked then will also work now. Second, the neighbor does not understand that times and circumstances change and that people can—and perhaps should—evolve with those changes. It can be argued that following tradition unthinkingly guarantees that nothing will ever change.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team