Study Guide

Mending Wall Exploration

By Robert Frost


But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean, (lines 8-9)

Does exploration involve an end-goal? Like the speaker trying to solve the mystery of the wall, these hunters try to corner little bunny rabbits. If we follow this comparison through, the hunters parallel the "something" that doesn’t love a wall, and the bunny rabbits parallel, perhaps, the meaning of the wall. Can it be that we, the readers of this poem, are like the hunters, too? Are we trying to find something or figure something out, as well?

No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there. (lines 10-11)

You can’t explore something if you know what’s already there! Mending the wall continues as an annual ritual because our speaker and his neighbor do not know what causes the wall’s destruction. To us, line 10 creates a sense of mystery and of the supernatural. The process of mending the wall is very logical and methodical, but it is the result of a very illogical and unknown chain of events. Does the speaker make a whole-hearted attempt to figure out the identity of the wall-destroying culprits in this poem? Or, does he give up on that task?

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head: (lines 28-29)

Does the speaker seem a little arrogant to you here? Why doesn’t he just express this notion, rather than wonder if he can somehow magically make his neighbor rethink the whole wall thing? How can anyone go about putting a notion in another person’s head? At this moment, the speaker seems to explore the realms of his neighbor’s mind.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out, (lines 33-34)

The speaker wishes that his neighbor will simply ask questions and investigate. Perhaps, the speaker could care less about whether or not there is a wall, and he just hungers for some good ol’ debate.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him, (lines 36-37)

When we hear this first line repeat towards the end of the poem, we realize that the speaker has not uncovered the mystery of the wall-destroyer. However, we also start to realize that the speaker’s focus shifts from the wall itself to his quiet neighbor.