What is the speaker's attitude toward the wall, in "Mending Wall"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker of Robert Frost's poem entitled "Mending Wall" does not see any need for a wall between his property and that of his neighbor; he also finds walls unnatural.

In the opening line, the speaker suggests that "Something" in nature does not like a wall because it causes the frozen ground to swell under this wall, spilling the "upper boulders" down as they create gaps through which anyone could pass. Here the speaker suggests that it is not natural to have a wall; after all, only man creates borders. For him and his neighbor, repairing this wall is but a "kind of outdoor game" that they annually play as they try to balance the rocks from either side. In another part of the poem, the speaker describes a place where there is no need for a wall:

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.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbors." (ll.23-27)

In his philosophical speculation, the speaker rejects as close-minded what the traditional neighbor says. He describes his neighbor's bringing a stone "grasped firmly by the top/In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed" (ll.39-40) to fight. This man, he adds, "moves in [the] darkness" (l. 41). of blind tradition because he "will not go behind his father's saying" (l.43). Instead, he habitually follows the tradition of repairing the stone wall. Thus entrenched in the routine of repairing the wall, the man repeats automatically the old saying of his father's, "Good fences make good neighbors" (l.45).

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator does not like walls, which is clear from the first line:

Something there is that doesn't love a wall (1)

He goes on to give examples of what nature wants to do to the wall, to spill the stones and make large gaps in the wall, so we can infer that walls are unnatural as far as the narrator is concerned, actually against nature. 

He goes on to point out the foolishness of the wall, to no purpose, since there are no cows to keep on one side of it and since his apple trees are not going to try to interfere with his neighbor's pine trees, by straying over and eating the pine cones. 

When he points this out to his neighbor, his neighbor responds that

Good fences make good neighbors (27)

He tries to point out that he would want to know the purpose of the wall before building one, what it was meant to keep out and whom it might offend in its building. But no matter what he says, his neighbor takes refuge in the same line.

The title is meant to be a somewhat ironic play on words, since in mending the wall with his neighbor, the narrator is contributing to an endeavor that is not mending anything, but that is more likely to promote bad feelings and offend nature itself.