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24 pages 48 minutes read

Robert Frost

Mending Wall

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1914

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Symbols & Motifs

The Wall

The wall is old, built long before the speaker or his neighbor were born. Its original purpose has apparently been lost to time: it has no clear function now, as there are no cows for the men to keep out of each other’s yards, the speaker jokes (31). But while the speaker makes light of the wall and its upkeep, his more practical neighbor sees its repair as a typical part his work day, an expected component of farm labor. He, more cautious and world-wise than the speaker, prioritizes the maintenance of systems which are already in place before a problem becomes apparent. The more positively-minded speaker sees no problem to keep them separate now, and thus can’t imagine a problem in the future. The wall represents this divergence in their world views, as well as embodying barriers in general, as discussed above.

“The Frozen-Ground-Swell” (Frost)

The “frozen-ground-swell” introduced in Line 2 has several possible metaphorical readings. First, Frost may be using indirect language to pointedly conceal the expected word: frost. “There is something that doesn’t love a wall, / That wants it down” the poet says, and tells us, in the first two lines of the poem, what this “something” may be: himself.

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