Mending Wall Poetry Critique Draft

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Are walls meant to keep things in? Or out? Robert Frosts’ “Mending Wall” published in 1914 offers an insight into conflict caused by contrasting opinions on the concept of boundaries and the impact they have on relationships. The poem shows two opinions on this topic, the speaker believes they cause isolation whereas his neighbour believes they create unity. Through the use of tone, craftsmanship and historical context, Frost is suggesting that both the speaker and their neighbour could learn from each other’s viewpoint implying that boundaries do not always cause isolation or unity.

Frost’s poem has a clever use of tone which highlights the man versus man conflict that is depicted. By developing a stubborn and frustrative tone, the poet can convey the opinions of both the speaker and neighbour. The neighbour feels that walls unify people, it is that opinion that seems to frustrate the speaker.

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“…we do not need the wall:”

The speaker feels as if repairing the wall is unnecessary, making the point that it will not cause harm to remove it by continuing to say.

“…My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines…”

To add to the speaker’s frustration, the neighbours always stubbornly repeats his father’s saying

“Good fences make good neighbours.”

The speaker sees this as the neighbour refusing to think for himself adding more conflict to the relationship the neighbour religiously believes the wall brings. By bringing this to the audience’s attention, the poet hopes to make the audience consider their relationships and the troubles between them.

The craftsmanship of this poem contributes to the audience’s understanding of the conflicted relationship between the speaker and his neighbour. Frost uses obvious irony to highlight this conflict with the wall both bringing the speaker and neighbour together and separating them at the same time. This idea is further developed when the words

“Good fences make good neighbours.”

are put to contrast with

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,”

This is paradoxical as firstly we are finding out that barriers are good, but then we find out they are not. Throughout this poem, Frost uses nature to help emphasise the speaker’s thoughts, by personifying apple trees, the speaker tries to indicate harm will not be caused by removing divisions. The neighbour is seen as a caveman by the speaker, stubborn and unable to think for himself, we see this opinion indicated by the simile:

“like an old-stone savage armed”

The wall unites our speaker and his neighbour but separates them as well. As we hear the neighbour speak the proverb twice:

‘Good fences make good neighbours’,

We consider the walls in our own lives thinking about how people and their relationships with others are impacted.

In 1914, Frost wrote this poem, but World War One also broke out, considering this we see that the poems historical context has a further effect on the meaning. When we think of this poem as a war poem, we see that the wall itself is a metaphor for the borders between countries, the speaker believes that borders that cause separation and therefore war too, and the neighbour believes that we cannot function without borders. This context adds a lot to the conflict in the poem as it is essentially pro-war and anti-war worldviews colliding, which at the time would have been very relatable to the audience, in turn enhancing their understanding of the poem.

Through this poem, Frost effectively encourages readers to consider what walls or barriers might be having an impact on their relationships and are they actually good to have. This poem will always remain relevant because there is never any war, so long as there is war, there are people with both the speaker’s and neighbour’s mindsets. Through his use of tone, craftsmanship and historical context, Frost can show that you should aim to learn from others and their views to maintain a successful relationship.  


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