An Analysis of Mending Wall

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An Analysis of Mending Wall Robert Frost once said that "Mending Wall" was a poem that was spoiled by being applied. What did he mean by "applied"? Any poem is damaged by being misunderstood, but that's the risk all poems run. What Frost objects to, I think, is a reduction and distortion of the poem through practical use. When President John F. Kennedy inspected the Berlin Wall he quoted the poem's first line: "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." His audience knew what he meant and how the quotation applied. And on the other side of that particular wall, we can find another example of how the poem has been used. Returning from a visit to Russia late in his life, Frost said, "The Russians reprinted 'Mending Wall' over there, and left that first line off." He added wryly, "I don't see how they got the poem started." What the Russians needed, and so took, was the poem's other detachable statement: "Good fences make good neighbors." They applied what they wanted. "I could've done better for them, probably," Frost said, "for the generality, by saying: Something there is that doesn't love a wall, Something there is that does. "Why didn't I say that?" Frost asked rhetorically. "I didn't mean that. I meant to leave that until later in the poem. I left it there." "Mending Wall" famously contains these two apparently conflicting statements. One begins the poem, the other ends it, and both are repeated twice. Which are we supposed to believe? What does Frost mean? "The secret of what it means I keep," he said. Of course he was being cagey, but not without reason. At a reading given at the Library of Congress in 1962 Frost told this anecdote: In England, two or three years ago, Graham Greene said to me... ... middle of paper ... ...ating a similar moment each time it is encountered. Works Cited and Consulted Barry, Elaine. Robert Frost. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. 1973. Robert Frost. “Mending Wall.” Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers. Ed. John Schilb and John Clifford. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000. p106-107. Gerber, Philip L. Robert Frost. Ed. Kenneth Eble. Boston: Twayne Publishers. 1982. 124-125 Lentricchia, Frank. Robert Frost: Modern Poetics and the Landscape of Self. Durham: Duke University Press. 1975. 103-107. Zverev, A. A Lover's Quarrel with the World: Robert Frost. 20th Century American Literature: A Soviet View. Translated by Ronald Vroon. Progress Publishers. 1976. 241-260. Rpt. in World Literature Criticism. Vol. 2. Ed. James P. Draper. Detroit: Gale Research Inc. 1992. 1298-1299.
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