Describe the relationship between the narrator and his neighbor in Robert Frost's poem "The Mending Wall".

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lhc | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Through this poem's narrator, Frost, a native New Englander, ruminates on the nature of fences in life, beginning with the springtime ritual by two New England farmers to repair the stone wall that divides their property after wintertime.  The spring thaw has caused the ground to swell, exerting pressure on the wall that results in some of the rocks coming loose from the structure.  The last section of the poem focuses most apparently on the relationship between the narrator and his neighbor; when the narrator begins wondering aloud if a wall is really necessary, the neighbor responds only with "Good fences make good neighbors," frustrating the narrator, who decides that he is dealing with an "old-stone savage" who will only repeat yet again, "Good fences make good neighbors." 

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profhyde-white | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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The narrator and the neighbor in the poem "The Mending Wall" have a curious relationship based on proximity rather than amicability. They are not unfriendly towards each other, as shown in the passage: "I let my neighbor know beyond the hill, and on a day we meet to walk the line" (12-13), yet there is a barrier separating their personal connection, illustrated in the line "We keep the wall between us as we go" (15).

This physical wall between the narrator and the neighbor represents the relational disunion between the two figures perpetuated by the neighbor's predilection to maintain the detached, self-sufficient demeanor he inherited from the culture of his ancestry: "He will not go behind his father's saying" (43).

The narrator, however, is of a different mindset and does not like the barrier between him and his neighbor. He considers it unnecessary to retain the wall between them and wonders if there is some way to convince his neighbor to take it down. "If I could put a notion in his head. Why do (walls) make good neighbors?" (line 29).

Ultimately, however, the narrator realizes the "wall" keeping him from a true relationship with his neighbor cannot be removed except by mutual agreement.

There is a melancholy air to the conclusion of the poem in which the neighbor repeats, "Good fences make good neighbors" (line 44). It seems unlikely that the narrator and neighbor will ever achieve the genuine friendship for which the narrator yearns because the neighbor is uninterested in the possibility of such a bond.

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