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In his poem 'Mending Wall', Robert Frost presents to us the ideas of barriers between people, communication, friendship and the sense of security people gain from barriers. His messages are conveyed using poetic techniques such as imagery, structure and humor, revealing a complex side of the poem as well as achieving an overall light-hearted effect. Robert Frost has cleverly intertwined both a literal and metaphoric meaning into the poem, using the mending of a tangible wall as a symbolic representation of the barriers that separate the neighbors in their friendship. (Frost (2002) 69)
The theme of the poem is about two neighbors who disagree over the need of a wall to separate their properties. Not only does the wall act as a divider in separating estates, it also acts as a barrier in the neighbors' friendship, separating them. The neighbor's property is a representation of his privacy and the wall acts as a barrier against intrusion.
The poem itself is a technique Robert Frost uses to convey his ideas. Behind the literal representation of building walls, there is a deeper metaphoric meaning, which reflects people's attitudes towards others. It reflects the social barriers people build, to provide a sense of personal security and comfort, in the belief that barriers are a source of protection which will make people less vulnerable to their fears. Robert Frost's ideas are communicated strongly through the perspective of the narrator in the poem, the 'I' voice, and who questions the need for barriers. In line thirty to line thirty-five, the narrator questions the purpose of a wall. (Alexander 36)
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One of the poetic techniques that Robert Frost uses to convey his ideas is imagery. The sentence structure of the first line of the poem places emphasis on 'something'. Nature, in the form of cold weather, frost and the activities of small creatures, gradually destroys the wall. The narrator seems to believe that walls are unnatural and suggests that nature dislikes walls. This is portrayed through the phrase 'sends the frozen ground swell under it' (line 2). The poem describes nature making holes in the wall large enough that 'even two can pass abreast'. (Frost (2002) 70)
Figurative expressions are used in 'Mending Wall' to describe the relationship between the neighbors. For example, the phrases 'to walk the line' and 'set the wall between us' (lines 13,14) refers to the building of a tangible wall that marks the boundary of the neighbors' properties. These phrases are also figurative and represent the setting of a barrier in the neighbors' friendship. When they meet to repair the wall, it could be metaphorically interpreted as repairing their friendship and resolving disputes. 'To each the boulders have fallen to each' (line 16) shows that fault lie on the behalf of both neighbors. Figurative language has been used to convey the meaning and significance of building the wall.
An overall light-hearted tone has been achieved throughout the poem. (Line 19) and the metaphor 'spring is mischief in me' (line 28) for example, shows the neighbors having fun in mending the wall together, creating a cheerful, light-hearted atmosphere. Although the narrator does not want the wall, ironically, the mending of the wall brings the neighbors together and literally builds their friendship. In repairing the fence, the neighbors are spending time together, building their friendship and improving the communication between them. Imagery is used to describe the neighbor's attitude, illustrating a rather grim, yet comical representation of him shifting the stones and repairing the fence. It refers to the attitudes of the narrator towards the wall - the narrator does not 'love the wall' and wants it down - whereas the 'something' mentioned in the first line of the poem refers to nature.
In 'Mending Wall', Robert Frost communicates his opinion regarding the ideas of barriers between people, communication, friendship and the sense of security people gain from barriers, through the perspective of the narrator of the poem. (Frost (2008) 36)