Robert Frost: "Mending Wall". Analysis. This poem is the first work in Frost's second book of poetry, “North of Boston,” which was published upon his return from. Mending Wall - Something there is that doesn't love a wall. SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall,. That sends the frozen-ground- swell under it,. And spills the upper boulders in the sun;. And makes gaps even two.
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Mending Wall. By Robert Frost. Something there is that doesn't love a wall,. That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,. And spills the upper boulders in the. Philosophy and Literature () Good Neighbors Make Good Fences: Frost's "Mending Wall" Zev Trachtenberg Defenders of the institution of. Something there is that doesn't love a wall,. That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,. And spills the upper boulders in the sun,. And makes gaps even two.
Property solves this problem. President John F. Help Center Find new research papers in: The neighbor, as we have seen, responds to this fact with the ideological justification that by separating them the wall makes them good neighbors. After the death of his father from tuberculosis when Frost was eleven years old, he moved with his mother and sister, Jeanie, who was two years younger, to Lawrence, Massachusetts. University of Chicago Press, , p. A possible conceptual link can be found in an argument offered by Carol Rose, who has persuasively identified a role for the human connections I associate with community in the creation of a [End Page ] property regime.
The narrator, at first glance, seems to take a somewhat skeptical attitude toward property. We shall see that his attitude is in fact more complicated.
The poem opens with his words "Something there is that doesn't love a wall"--a phrase he repeats later, making it a kind of slogan for the position on property he personifies. That position seems to reject human attempts to inscribe the arbitrary divisions of property holdings on the land.
The narrator sees in natural processes an attempt to cast off this artificial imposition: For, he recognizes, the two parcels are one, connected underneath the wall by natural forces that work unconsciously but actively against human efforts to divide them. The neighbor, by contrast, speaks for an individualistic belief in the value of marking property holdings.
The neighbor first offers his slogan in response to the fact that the wall is not needed for the practical purpose of keeping his and the narrator's goods separate. Their goods do not need a wall to be kept apart: Rather it serves to define the sort of relationship he wishes to have with those who surround him: In the neighbor's eyes, apparently, all that makes a neighbor is the mere fact of owning an adjacent farm, hence what makes a good neighbor is his separateness.
For what else could characterize the goodness of neighbors who are made good by fences? The neighbor thus personifies a position on property that disvalues community. Property is marked by walls, whose main function in his view is precisely to divide people--more importantly even than dividing their goods.
Thus the neighbor appears to the narrator at the end of the poem as "an old-stone savage," armed with the rocks to be used for rebuilding the wall, an image that associates walls with weapons. At the [End Page ] same time, this image presents the neighbor as an autarchic figure, an embodiment of human isolation.
In both ways the poem shows the neighbor rejecting the human connectedness that constitutes membership in community, in favor of the personal security of his own property.
The slogan "good fences make good neighbors" thus encapsulates the notion that property's primary function is to mark off separate domains within which individuals are independent of each other. In this sense, we can observe, the neighbor's slogan expresses the central liberal conception of property. Indeed, in his magisterial defense of classical liberalism, F.
Hayek cites the slogan in arguing that property "is the only solution men have yet discovered to the problem of reconciling individual freedom with the absence of conflict.
Property solves this problem. By establishing individual spheres within which one is free to do what one will with one's own, property makes for neighborliness in the sense of non-interference.
This is not, perhaps, a very robust sense of neighborliness, but it seems to follow from the priority liberalism assigns to individual liberty over communal attachments. The neighbor speaks for the value of property divisions; in contrast, by suggesting that the Spring thaw is the "something there is that doesn't love a wall," the narrator seems at least at first to attack property as an affront to nature.
It is tempting, therefore, to attribute to the narrator a kind of romantic rejection of property--in favor, perhaps, of a vision of community in which people share the land communally.
But a closer reading of the poem reveals the narrator's position to be much more complex. Rather, for him, they are linked by the fact that property divisions must be actively maintained, and this activity can be the basis of community. The most obvious indication that the narrator is not opposed to property is that it is he who summons the neighbor to the yearly chore of mending the wall.
It is worth noting first that the narrator is not concerned only with breaches to the wall caused by natural forces. He refers also to [End Page ] "the work of hunters" who leave "not one stone on a stone" in flushing out their prey. These gaps the narrator repairs himself. That is, the narrator personally upholds property divisions in the face of the hunters' use of the land as a commons.
By no means does he stand for the communal use of land; he is firmly committed to maintaining the division of land into private property. What, then, is the value of the wall to the narrator? He understands as well as the neighbor that the wall lacks a utilitarian purpose; it is he who reminds the neighbor of this fact.
The neighbor, as we have seen, responds to this fact with the ideological justification that by separating them the wall makes them good neighbors. What is important for the narrator is the playful sharing of an activity with his neighbor. Consider his description of their replacing the stones on the wall: Thus, as he says, mending the wall is like a game, in which the opponents are in a broader sense partners in a common undertaking.
In seeing the practice of affirming property divisions as a game, the narrator presents property as a human convention.
And, as he witnesses every Spring, this convention sits uneasily on the land. We noted above that the narrator sees in the forces that cast down the wall nature's rejection of the division of land into property.
But the narrator also sees in these natural forces the occasion for cooperation with his neighbor. The vulnerability of the wall to natural destruction explains why it constitutes an ongoing opportunity for engagement between his neighbor and himself.
Nature tends to obliterate the marks of property; the narrator grasps the effort to reestablish what is their own as an opportunity for human connection. Hence, for him, it is this chance to affirm community in the face of nature that makes mending the wall worthwhile.
Recall that he fixes the gaps made by other people himself. That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,. Where they have left not one stone on a stone,. But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,.
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,. No one has seen them made or heard them made,.
But at spring mending-time we find them there. To each the boulders that have fallen to each. And some are loaves and some so nearly balls. We have to use a spell to make them balance: We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours. Isn't it. Where there are cows? I let my neighbor know beyond the hill; And on a day we meet to walk the line And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go. To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls We have to use a spell to make them balance: Oh, just another kind of outdoor game, One on a side. It comes to little more: There where it is we do not need the wall: 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. He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors. Isn't it Where there are cows? But here there are no cows. Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That wants it down. I see him there Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
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, And he likes having thought of it so well He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors. Robert Frost.