“Mending Wall” is one of the greatest poems of Frost which bears almost all important features of his poetry. It is a simple, clear and interesting lyrical, dramatic monologue in which the supposed conversant is a young, energetic, modern and imaginative person, perhaps the poet himself and the other character is a farmer, an old, passive and conventional neighbor of the speaker. However, this orthodox neighbor does not speak to us directly rather we know his views and attitudes from what the speaker says about him. In fact the poem is a critical and philosophical commentary on tradition and modernity, but Frost presents these difficult views in such simple term that we are amazed at Frost’s authority on conception and execution.
The speaker and his neighbor share a wall between their respective properties and some unknown agency breaks this wall, so every spring they combine to repair it. The speaker personally finds no reason to repair it because he thinks that:
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall”
But the neighbor has firm belief in his father’s saying that
“Good fences make good neighbours.”
The speaker does not agree with his neighbor and presents another argument against the need of wall when he says,
“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.”
But all this fall flat upon the neighbor and he remains unmoved.
When an ordinary reader of poetry studies Mending Wall he thinks that it is merely an account of the clash between two neighbors about the need of building a wall between their properties. But when we critically examine the poem we come to know that its apparent simplicity is quite deceptive and misleading because Wall, neighbor, Apple Pine etc. have symbolic significance. The wall symbolized all kinds of man-made barriers, the division between nations, classes, races, religions groups and so on. In the voice of the two men the younger, new fashioned speaker and the traditional, old-fashioned farmer – we can hear the clash of two forces; the speaker is the spirit of revolt which challenges traditions while the old fashioned farmer is the spirit of restraint, which insists that conventions must be observed.
We are quite surprised at Frost’s ability to acquaint us with so complex, intricate and modern issues in such simple, terms. After reading this debate, quite naturally, we start thinking who is right, the speaker or his neighbor, should we observe or demolish such barriers which separate man from man, it is customary that human mind looks for some satisfactory solution of such riddles. However, it is very difficult to find ever justifiable answer to these questions, that is why Frost never gives his final statement in such cases. He is fully aware of the fact that there is a great variety and disparity in people’s views and there is no sweeping generalization which may satisfy every individual. Frost himself gives no verdict and after presenting two views leaves the decision upon us. So he only presents conflicting views and leaves upon his readers to affirm or negate any of them.
Frost has drawn the character sketches of the character and exposed the central theme of the poem with great art. The conversant quite casually starts with plain statements which, with the passage of time become mild and playful conflict of opinions. However, the thought content of the poem, Frost’s colloquial style and his beautiful blank verse have made this poem a blend of dramatic and lyrical craftsmanship.