Study Guide

Mending Wall Language and Communication

By Robert Frost

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Language and Communication

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, (lines 1-3)

Whatever this "something" is, he/she/it certainly doesn’t know how to use his/her/its words. Did your mom, dad or grandparent ever tell you to "use your words," instead of your actions, when you were little? Well, this "something" certainly does not know how to communicate his/her/its dissatisfaction with the wall, and, instead, invites the frost to come and mess with the rocks in the wall. Something, do you need a time-out?

I have come after them and made repair (line 6)

Why doesn’t out speaker just ask the hunters not to hunt on his property? Or, why doesn’t he just post a sign saying, "No Bunny Hunting?" Instead, he seems locked in some passive-aggressive battle with the disrespectful hunters, and he seems content to follow after them and clean up.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill (line 12)

The speaker commences the mending season. He reaches out to the neighbor. However, he doesn’t tell the neighbor that it’s time to starting mending the wall again; he simply tells this neighbor that the wall is broken in places (yet again). To us, the speaker seems like he needs a friend. Or, maybe just a hug. We’re not sure which.

‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’ (line 19)

The actual dialogue that he presents us with in this poem consists of a proverb and a spell. The remainder of the conversation between the speaker and neighbor relies on a second-hand report by means of our speaker. The only real communication we know that our speaker and his neighbor engage in doesn’t have anything to do with each other, but, rather, with the wall (in the form of the spell) and with the past opinions of others (in the form of the "Good fences make good neighbors" proverb). Do you find that you are hungry to hear more of their conversation, or are you satisfied with what you get in this poem?

He will not go behind his father’s saying, (line 44)

What does it mean to "go behind" a saying or an idea? Is it like going behind someone’s back. and doing something that you said you wouldn’t do without telling him or her? How is this phrase different from "reject," as in, "He will not reject his father’s saying?" To us, "go behind" sounds a bit more undercover, and the speaker almost seems like a teenager daring his friend to do something that his parents forbid him to do. The speaker doesn’t seem to judge the neighbor for believing in the proverb, but he does seem to judge him for his inability to think outside the box, at least temporarily.

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