What is irony in the poem "Mending Wall"?  

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Perhaps the greatest irony in the poem "Mending Wall " is that the speaker continues to help rebuild the wall even as he realizes he disagrees with its presence. As the poem progresses, the speaker notes how all sorts of natural forces, like the ground and animals, conspire to...

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Perhaps the greatest irony in the poem "Mending Wall" is that the speaker continues to help rebuild the wall even as he realizes he disagrees with its presence. As the poem progresses, the speaker notes how all sorts of natural forces, like the ground and animals, conspire to take down the wall each winter. However, he and his neighbor gather each spring to put it back together. On this particular rebuilding date, the speaker starts to internally question why the wall exists. He wonders why it is needed if he and his neighbor's trees don't interfere with each other's property. He starts to even feel offended, thinking his neighbor is trying to box him out through this wall. Despite the speaker's probably true fear, he and the neighbor meet and put the wall together, almost ritualistically. This is a social experience, though the neighbor's insistence on keeping the wall suggests that he wants to isolate himself or separate his property from that of the speaker. This, of course, is another instance of irony in the poem, because they join together to keep themselves apart.

When the speaker asks himself why the neighbor doesn't consider what he is "walling out," he implies that the neighbor is shutting down community and communication by requiring the rebuilding of the wall. The neighbor can only answer that "good fences make good neighbors," and the imagery the speaker uses to describe the neighbor at the end of the poem strongly conveys the speaker's attitude that the neighbor's view is backward and pessimistic. At the end of the poem, though, there is no real reason to believe the two won't meet again next spring and rebuild the wall all over again.

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Irony is created when there is some discrepancy or contrast between what is expected to happen and what actually happens. One irony of this poem, then, is that the speaker does not like fences or walls and, yet, he participates in the upkeep of the wall between his property and his neighbor's; we would expect him to refuse to do this work. The speaker actually feels that walls are unnatural. They get knocked down by the "frozen-ground-swell" when winter comes, and the rocks on top sometimes fall down as a result of various weather conditions.

It is also ironic that a wall exists and continues to be meticulously maintained by the speaker and his neighbor, where it is not needed. The speaker declares that, where the wall stands, it divides his own apple trees from his neighbor's pine trees. He even tells his neighbor that the apples will never cross the boundary and eat his pinecones like livestock might, and those pinecones will never cross the boundary to eat the speaker's apples. There is absolutely no need for the wall to exist and, yet, the neighbors keep fixing it year after year, defying expectation.

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This particular Robert Frost poem is pointing out a situational irony that can be found in the act of putting up boundaries between people. The poem itself is about the narrator and his neighbor who both have to work every year to mend the wall along their property line. The wall gets broken for various reasons in the poem, and the narrator is perfectly willing to just let the wall be done for good. He and his neighbor have completely different crops, and those crops won't affect each other regardless of the wall's presence.

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, I tell him.
The neighbor, though, feels that the wall itself creates good relationships between the two men.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."
It's ironic that something designed to keep people apart would actually function as a way of keeping things cordial. It doesn't make sense to the narrator, but the neighbor probably feels that the wall is a concrete indicator that shows each person what belongs to whom. There is less chance for any kind of argument between the two men because the wall exists.
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In Robert Frost's poem, "Mending Wall," the speaker considers the idea of the wall in his yard and wonders why it is necessary. He prefers that there is no wall between he and his neighbor so they can have access to each other. However, the neighbor feels otherwise and believes that "good fences make good neighbors." He believes that walls or fences set up healthy boundaries between neighbors and that keeping an element of privacy makes for better relationships.

The irony is that putting a wall up between yourself and someone else seems like it would do the opposite--it seems like it would create a barrier, distance. For some people, it would. The speaker, for instance, thinks no fences would make good neighbors. Yet, the neighbor prefers a barrier, regardless of how ironic it may seem. For him, that is what makes him comfortable and makes him feel more neighborly towards the speaker.

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