What are the characteristics of the speaker and the neighbour in the poem "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker in the poem is a thoughtful man, hard-working, practical, and discerning.  As he works with his neighbour to repair the wall dividing their property, he questions the necessity of even having a wall in certain places, noting, "There where it is we do not need the wall, he is all pine and I am apple orchard, my apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines" (lines 23-26).  The speaker likes to examine issues and evaluate whether he is doing things for good reasons.  He is free-thinking, and would prefer not to have a wall at all, because "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know what I was walling in or walling out and to whom I was like to give offence.  Something there is that doesn't love a wall" (lines 33-36).

The neighbour, on the other hand, sees no reason to even discuss the situation, repeating, "Good fences make good neighbors" (lines 27 and 46).  He is uncommunicative, and the speaker feels he is rigid and unwilling to look at things in new ways.  The neighbour hides behind old sayings, and the speaker labels him "an old stone savage" who "moves in darkness" (lines 41-42).  The neighbor is the type of man who blocks other people and possibilities out of his life, both figuratively and concretely.