18 September 2008

Analysis of Robert Frost's "The Mending Wall" (American Poetry)

Characterized by popularity in the poetic circuit, usage of poetic language and humor, and an element of enlightened mastery of verse, Robert Frost initiated a distinct form of poetry in the poem “The Mending Wall” (1003). As he poised at the forefront of a new realm of poetic practice and poetic freedom, it was “The Mending Wall” that exemplified the poetry of Frost.

The poem was about human nature. A stone wall separated the speaker’s property from his neighbor’s property. In the spring, the two men would meet to walk the wall together and make the necessary repairs. The speaker questioned the validity of the wall, while the neighbor adamantly defended the need for the wall. The speaker was unconvinced but wished the neighbor to derive his own conclusion. While attempting to unfold the meaning of the poem, the reader ultimately deduced a dominant idea. The overwhelming theme of the poem asserted nature’s demand of humankind to seek social interaction with one another.

Frost epitomized a nature poet because of his simple but effective poetic practice and his evaluation of man and nature. At a time of strict organized poetic form, “The Mending Wall” displayed poetic freedom. Poetically, the poem possessed common methods of speech. Influenced by a reader’s awareness of social interaction, personal relationships and an awareness of nature, the poem spoke to the audience both broadly and intimately. The narrator forced the reader to view human social interaction analytically and methodically.

Through the lines of the poem, Frost gave his audience a new perspective on nature and human social relationships. The poem is written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. Concentrating on the details of the lines, blank verse is the baseline meter of the poem with a few variant exceptions of iambic pentameter.

Moreover, five stressed syllables occur in each line. There are no stanza brakes. The elements of assonance and alliteration can be found within the lines of the poem. Assonance refers to the same or similar vowel sounds while alliteration refers to the repetition of the initial sounds of stressed words. Explicating the text for alliteration, the reader noticed the repetition of initial consonant sounds through the sequence of the words “old-stone savage” (l. 40).

Attesting to the presence of assonance, the careful reader diagnosed the repetition of the vowel sounds in the sequence of the words “no one has seen them made or heard them made” (l. 10). The simple form of the poem is significant. The simplicity of speech provided ease for the common man. The word choice flowed eloquently and allowed the reader to feel the elements of commonality and familiarity.

Bringing the details of the poem to the reader, there was also playfulness and thoughtfulness in the narrator. “Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder / If I could put a notion in his head / ‘Why do they make good neighbors”’ is quite humorous (ll. 28-30). Adding another element of humor, the narrator described the activity as “just another outdoor game” (l. 21). This was an activity that required hard manual labor, but the implication that the narrator enjoyed it as a sport was comical.

The statement enlightened the reader on the narrator’s personality. It was implied the speaker enjoyed the activity of finding fault with his neighbor but made no assessment of his own actions. The narrator stated, while speaking of his neighbor, “He moves in darkness as it seems to me / Not of woods only and the shade of trees / He will not go behind his father’s saying” (ll. 41-43). The narrator failed to explore his own self analysis or obtain the self realization that he may be a significant part of the problem as well.

The meaning of the poem can be extracted from the two statements that were repeated within the lines of the poem. “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” and “Good fences make good neighbors” energized the reader against maintaining the wall. (ll. 1,36,27,45). This was significant because the narrator drew attention to the statements. “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall [.…] / And makes gaps even two can pass abreast [.…] / No one has seen them made or heard them made. / But at spring mending time we find them there” (ll. 1-11). Nature disliked the wall and did not like the barrier between “mankind” and attempted to destroy it [the wall] daily. The wall continued falling down but the men kept rebuilding the wall. Nature seemingly and vigorously implied its intention was to promote human interaction.

2 comments:

multan said...

good effort to understand new poetry

Anonymous said...

I thought the story was a reference to American history, building the USA, putting up fences, claiming land. Furthermore I think the main theme is: Unity in seperation. The very thing that keeps people apart brings them together: the wall.

The word offence is a pun --> fence.