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Diversity characterizes humanity, from varying backgrounds to contrasting personalities. These differences often engender inconsistent ideas and perspectives. For instance, Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” depicts the contrasting personalities of the speaker and his neighbor. Each spring, these two individuals reconstruct the wall of distrust and misunderstanding which separates them. Because the neighbors possess different attributes, they feel obligated to distance themselves from each other with an unnecessary barrier, a wall which nature seems determined to erode away. Through the usage of diction, figurative language, and imagery, the poem’s speaker depicts the existence of division between different people, whether it be a wall of traditional discrimination, a gap in communication, or an obstacle to understanding.
Through his meticulous choice of diction, the speaker depicts himself in a light-hearted tone. By describing himself as an “apple orchard,” the speaker conveys his sweet and vibrant personality, similar to the aromatic and welcoming nature of an apple orchard. Additionally, the speaker is “mischievous. He attempts to “plant” unconventional “notions in[side] his neighbor’s head.” The speaker also seems to lack seriousness. To him, the mending of the wall is “just another outdoor game.” By depicting himself as an innocuous, childlike individual, the speaker subtly detracts from his role in the reconstruction of the wall. In fact, he explicitly claims that “we do not need the wall.”
The speaker also depicts his neighbor as “an old-stone savage,” suggesting that his neighbor’s viewpoints appear archaic. To further the image of his neighbor’s idiosyncrasy, the speaker claims that his neighbor fervently believes in the adage that “Good fences makes good neighbors,” a saying that originated from previous generations. Unlike the speaker, the neighbor adamantly supports the presence of the wall, even though it seems superfluous.
By utilizing figurative language, the speaker in Robert Frost’s poem describes the implications of the differences between himself and his neighbor. In the poem, the wall symbolizes a grave obstacle, the barrier of misunderstanding and discrimination between the speaker and his neighbor who possess different perspectives and ways of life. The neighbor symbolizes those who follow the tradition of discrimination set by their forefathers. Even when the divisive wall no longer serves a salient purpose, the neighbor maintains the barrier in accordance with the teachings of his past ancestors. On the other hand, the speaker represents those who realize the futility of division, yet condone discrimination because they feel obligated to mend the long-standing wall. However, the speaker observes that “something doesn’t love a wall,” implying that a powerful force seeks to unite people, perhaps love or understanding.
Although the speaker and his neighbor appear like people with contrasting personalities, they both participate in mending the wall of misunderstanding because they feel wary of those that differ from themselves. The speaker claims that the wall serves no purpose, but ironically, he arranges times each spring when he meets his neighbor at the wall to “set the wall between [them] once again” and “keep the wall between [them] as they go.” Frost’s “Mending Wall” uses diction, imagery, and figurative language to capture this complex relationship between the speaker and his neighbor. This relationship provides a parallelism to the conflict between modern viewpoints and antiquated perspectives. In essence, the differences between the speaker and his neighbor exemplify society’s constant struggle between acceptance and discrimination.