The Mending Wall By Robert Frost: Summary, Theme & Analysis

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  • 0:01 Robert Frost
  • 0:50 Mending Wall
  • 2:20 Analysis
  • 3:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jacob Erickson

Jacob has his master's in English and has taught multiple levels of literature and composition, including junior high, college, and graduate students.

This lesson will explore Robert Frost's famous and intricate poem, 'Mending Wall.' We'll look at its form, themes, and context in order to analyze the poem.

Robert Frost

'Mending Wall' was written and published by Robert Frost in 1914 in an influential collection of poems titled North of Boston. Throughout much of his career, a time when many Americans felt alienated by increasingly innovative poetry, Frost was an unusually popular poet. This is due in part to the fact that, while other writers tended to abandon the qualities of poetry of the previous century, Frost's work maintained many of poetry's more traditional conventions. Frost famously insisted, for example, that poetry should be written with formal meter, while many contemporary writers had already abandoned this convention. This doesn't mean, however, that Frost's poetry was straightforward or traditional in content or perspective, as 'Mending Wall' illustrates.

Mending Wall

'Mending Wall' is loosely written in blank verse, meaning unrhymed lines consisting of five iambs in each line. Iambs are metrical feet that have two syllables, one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable, as in 'belong,' or 'along,' or 'away.' As we'll see, in addition to creating an overall sound and feeling to the poem, the blank verse form also contributes to the poem's meaning.

'Mending Wall' opens with a speaker explaining that his property is separated from his neighbor's by a stone wall that is constantly being dismantled by 'something that doesn't love a wall.' Just what this something is that disrupts the wall remains somewhat vague, but the speaker illustrates that it cannot be animals or hunters. The task of mending the wall is difficult, and because nothing in their respective properties poses a threat to the other's, the speaker tries to convince his neighbor that there is no need to continue to fix the wall.

The neighbor, however, is unconvinced by the speaker's reasoning and in response, simply utters his father's saying that 'good fences make good neighbors.' The speaker again presses his neighbor, pointing out that rational people should know exactly what they are keeping in and keeping out when they build a wall, yet again the neighbor resists the speaker's reasoning. The poem ultimately ends symbolically with the neighbor's repetition of the adage that 'good fences make good neighbors.'

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