Social constructionism is the idea that there are boundaries that separate members of a society through certain means. As stated in the dictionary, it is defined as a social mechanism, phenomenon, or category created and developed by society; a perception of an individual, group, or idea that is ‘constructed’ through cultural or social practice(dictionary.com 1). Throughout the poem, Mending Wall by Robert Frost there is a subtle hint of social constructionism going on. With many possible ways to interpret the poem through its blank verse and rhythmic end words, there are several metaphors that allude to the idea of the wall being a social barrier built by two opposing forces. Through this poem that was written during the beginning of WWI a time of great change, it is possible to uncover the hidden meanings on how the wall that is constructed affects both parties and their beliefs. Why do people create boundaries between others? What is the point? Does this not just instead created animosity and conflict due to sometimes overstepping boundaries? These are all questions that the poem forces readers to ask themselves.
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Written in 1914, Robert Frost wrote the poem Mending Wall. Now before diving into the poem itself, it is important to understand what was going on at the time with Frost himself and the world around him. Frost was living in England when the first World War broke out. During this time, British was a part of the Triple Entente and eventually joined its allies in the war against Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy (insert citation). Making one’s life normal during a war is quite difficult and Frost was able to witness many of the things going on in his environment. Apart from the war, civil rights movements were all on the rise from all walks of life. From the African-American side, there was a mass movement known as the Great Migration that took place in Southern America. This created a lot of economic instability for blacks and whites alike as jobs were taken and given. Women were also on the rise as well as men were taken off into war, they began to take their place (insert citation). Women were no longer assuming the roles they had before, but were now becoming valued members of society. They began taking jobs that would have never normally been assigned to them and were becoming more equal to men than ever before. These two civil rights movements were not the only ones occurring, but they had a very strong impact on almost everyone across the country and even the world. These external forces could very well have influenced the idea of building a wall for no reason in Frost’s poem. Apart from the war and the civil revolutions, Robert had just left London to move back to the states. Frost and his wife had a very difficult time as the majority of their kids died or became sick. This was a very influential and perfect time for Frost’s writing, but nonetheless impacted him severely. Overall these all contained a major influence on his works and allowed him to explore his creativity and try new things.
It is important to know the roles of the characters in the poem before moving on as each one represents something or someone during Frost’s time. The narrator simply represents the average liberal at the time and the neighbor is the conservative known best for his proverb. In the first stanzas, the narrator simply states, “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; and makes gaps even two can pass abreast” (Frost 49). This could simply allude to nature being a primary opposing force to the wall being built. A social construct is not a natural thing, which is why it is so difficult to stay on track. Race for example being a social construct; the idea of race is something that separates man when in reality nothing separates us and we are all human. The something that Robert is describing is nature, and it doesn’t love the wall that divides man. In stanza 10 and 11, the narrator writes that no one has seen the gaps made or even at least heard them, yet they are there when it is time to fix the wall. Nature is still very much involved at this point as it is an invisible force that is unable to be seen, yet its presence is still known. The narrator is confused by the existence of the wall and it is possible to understand their confusion. The narrator states that he quarrels with his neighbor that it is unnecessary for the wall to exist yet, his neighbor only responds, ‘Good fences make good neighbors” (Frost 50). For someone living in the 1910s, this proverb could simply mean that the wall will keep that safe. Separation is key in order to for a society to thrive and prosper. At least that is the belief at the time. By keeping their respective boundaries that would prevent future arguments about property and so forth. We see the narrator mention how his apples would not get in the way of the pines, which alludes to crossing boundaries once again. Towards the end of the poem, the author does mention that he noticed his neighbor standing there in each hand a stone was being carried (a hammer?) and appeared to be a stone-age savage (Frost 50). This could represent the closed-minded older generation as there is always that inter-generation conflict that arises. With older technology must come an older belief, which is a possible reason for the neighbor to constantly say the proverb about good fences making good neighbors. There is a fear instilled within the neighbor of change, therefore they are constantly fixing the fall. Once again, this is going against nature and is inevitably a losing battle yet, they continue on anyways.
There is also a sense of irony in the poem that takes place. After reading the piece it is possible to deduce that even the narrator is highly involved with the construction of the wall. In the 13th stanza, the narrator states that they themselves inform the neighbor on when the wall shall be worked upon. Apart from this they speak about how there is a mischief that is brought out by this will inside of them (Frost 50). The narrator while confused about this wall nonetheless wants the wall there just as much as the neighbor does. With this in mind, it is highly likely that Frost wrote this as a metaphor that, while perhaps a person does not agree with the social construct, they nonetheless partake in constructing it or maintaining it. The idea of a wall separates man and keeps us from truly putting ideas together for a betterment. The wall while real in the poetic sense is unreal, yet is real as it has this ability to affect the neighbor so much and cause him to truly question the need for this.
The idea of a wall separating ideas and classifications is something that follows us to the present day. With the upcoming presidential election, the idea of an actual physical wall separating man is something that must have been taken out of context from somewhere. It does make sense to connect the dots with this poem as Frost’s work was very well-known. This shows that the poem through some means had an influence on future generations in positive and negative aspects. Overall, there are many possible interpretations to what the Mending Wall poem signifies, but it is important to simply keep in mind the background of what was going during Frost’s lifetime. Robert Frost was known for writing thought provoking work and this poem is no exception. In his personal and external environment Robert had a lot of things that could have very well influenced him to write this piece. This is why it is possible to deduce the idea of the wall being a social construct placed by men with no reason in maintaining it other than for the sake of “keeping peace” amongst neighbors
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