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Mending Wall

Mending Wall

  

by Robert Frost

Analysis: Calling Card

Rural New England Landscape and Absence

This San Francisco-born poet loved the New England countryside, and many of his poems dwell in the eerie quiet of the woods. He lived on a farm in Derry, New Hampshire for much of his life, so he was well acquainted with the work that country life demands. Tasks like apple picking, mowing, milking, sewing, digging, mending, and building are prominent throughout Frost’s poems. Frost’s easy language complements these descriptions of farm life.

By "easy," we don’t mean "the opposite of difficult." Rather, we mean that Frost captures people’s natural rhythms of speech. If we overhear someone say, "My apple trees will never get across/ and eat the cones under pines," (lines 25-26), we won’t necessarily think, "Oh, they’re speaking in poetry." Instead, we’ll probably chuckle and say, "No, your apple trees probably won’t!" Unlike many of his contemporaries who experiment with language in all kinds of crazy ways, Frost doesn’t try to jar his readers in such a way. He wants his readers to think about the universal ideas that he kicks around, and to hear the meaning of the poem unfold as they read it.

It may come as no surprise to us that Frost loses many family members and loved ones in his lifetime, outliving several of his children and his wife. He is no stranger to grief and loneliness, and struggles with suicidal tendencies for a time. His poems seem as much about what is discussed and what is present, as they are about what isn’t talked of and what is absent. For example, the speaker begins "Mending Wall" by saying, "Something there is that doesn’t love a wall." It is precisely this something, this unknown ghostlike thing, that lurks in almost all of Frost’s poems. Even as our speaker and his neighbor go about the quiet task of mending their wall, we feel that, at any minute, something drastic can happen, or some thing can appear.

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