What Does the Wall in the Poem Mending Wall Symbolize: Exploring the Deeper Meaning of Frost’s Iconic Work

Every time I read “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost, I always find myself drawn to the symbolic meaning behind the poem’s central imagery: the wall. What does the wall truly represent in this poem about two neighbors mending their wall regularly? For some, it is simply a barrier that divides their properties and protects their respective privacy. However, a deeper interpretation suggests that the wall symbolizes much more than that; it represents human nature’s persistent need to break down and rebuild barriers, even those that serve no practical purpose.

Throughout the poem, the wall between the two neighbors becomes increasingly symbolic. Initially, the wall seems purely functional, tasked with keeping each man’s property separate. Yet, as the poem progresses and the two neighbors rebuild the wall together, Frost’s symbolism takes over. The wall ultimately represents the stubborn pride that both men feel, which keeps them from fully connecting as neighbors. They build the wall back up each year, not because it needs fixing, but because it is a ritualistic tradition instilled in their minds from an early age.

In many ways, the wall in “Mending Wall” leads me to think about the many intangible barriers that we humans construct in our day-to-day lives. While they may not be physical walls, we still put up emotional, mental, and social fences that prevent us from connecting with others. Perhaps the wall in Frost’s poem serves as a metaphorical representation of these barriers, a testament to the human tendency to wall ourselves off from anything that lies outside of our comfort zones.

The concept of boundaries in literature

Boundaries, both physical and metaphorical, have been a recurring theme in literature for centuries. They can represent a variety of ideas including division, separation, protection, control and power. In literature, authors often use the metaphorical representation of boundaries to explore larger themes such as individuality, human nature, morality, and societal norms.

  • In some works, physical boundaries such as walls, fences or rivers, represent the separation of characters or societies. For instance, in “Mending Wall,” a poem by Robert Frost, the wall symbolizes a physical and emotional divide between two neighbors. The wall also represents the concept of private property, which is a recurring theme in Frost’s work, as he explores the individuality and autonomy of characters.
  • Boundaries can also act as a protector in literature. For example, in Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the wall separating the Capulets and Montagues ensures that these two families do not cross paths, protecting their respective honor and maintaining the peace. Similarly, in The Odyssey, Odysseus uses boundaries to protect his homeland from invasion, a sign of his loyalty to his family and community
  • Boundaries can be seen as a symbol of control and power in literature. For example, in George Orwell’s “1984,” the boundary between the proles and the Party is strictly enforced to maintain the Party’s control over society. Similarly, the wall in “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, is a metaphorical boundary that represents the societal limitations placed on women in the 19th century.

Overall, the concept of boundaries in literature is multifaceted and can represent a variety of ideas, including separation, protection, control, autonomy, and power. Authors use these representations to explore larger themes and ideas, giving readers deeper insight into the human experience.

Analysis of Robert Frost’s poetry

Robert Frost, one of the most prominent American poets of the 20th century, is known for his use of rural settings and everyday language to explore profound themes of human experience. His poetry often presents a complex view of the world, blending both the familiar and the mysterious in a way that challenges readers to think deeply about the nature of existence.

What does the wall in the poem “Mending Wall” symbolize?

  • The wall in “Mending Wall” is a symbol of division and separation between neighbors. It represents the physical and emotional barriers that people create to protect their own interests and identities.
  • The act of mending the wall symbolizes the human desire to maintain these barriers, even though they may be unnecessary or harmful.
  • The wall can also be seen as a metaphor for the limitations of human understanding and communication. Despite the speaker’s attempts to bridge the gap between himself and his neighbor, they remain divided by their different perspectives and experiences.

The “Mending Wall” is one of Frost’s most famous poems, known for its simple language and powerful message. Through the imagery of the wall, Frost explores the themes of identity, community, and individualism, challenging readers to consider the ways in which human beings isolate themselves from one another, and the consequences of those choices.

Ultimately, the poem suggests that the act of tearing down walls – both physical and emotional – is essential to creating a more open, connected, and compassionate world.

Symbolism Meaning
The wall Division, separation, barriers to communication
The act of mending the wall Human desire to maintain barriers, even when they may be unnecessary or harmful
The limitations of human understanding and communication The speaker’s attempts to bridge the gap between himself and his neighbor, without success
Tearing down walls Essential to creating a more open, connected, and compassionate world

In conclusion, the wall in “Mending Wall” is a powerful symbol of the divisions that human beings create between themselves. Through the imagery of the wall, Frost challenges readers to think deeply about the ways in which we isolate ourselves, and the importance of breaking down barriers in order to create a more open and connected world.

The History of Wall-Building in the US

The idea of wall-building is not new to human civilization. From the Great Wall of China to the Berlin Wall, countries around the world often erect walls to fulfill various purposes, including to prevent a foreign invasion, to keep citizens sealed inside the walls, among others. While the United States celebrated tearing down barriers including the Berlin Wall to champion freedom and unity, the current political discourse is focused on the idea of building walls to enhance security and sovereignty. But the history of wall-building in the US stretches far beyond the buzzwords of the current political discourse. The US’s history of wall-building is closely tied to its colonial past and the need for security.

  • Ancient Walls: Even before Europeans colonized North America, Indigenous Peoples built walls to mark territorial boundaries and to keep themselves protected.
  • Colonial walls: As Europeans began to colonize North America, they constructed walls around their settlements to ward off hostile Natives and other invaders. One significant example is the Wall Of New Amsterdam (New York) which was built to keep out the expansion of the British colonies.
  • Civil War-era walls: The American Civil War in the 1800s brought about the construction of walls, barriers, and forts built for the purpose of defending the Union or the Confederacy during the war, i.e., Fort Sumter of South Carolina.

The construction of walls symbolizes different things in different societies, but in the United States, the history of wall-building is intertwined with the country’s history. The controversial construction of the Southern border wall proposed by the current administration and its impact is still under a cloud of speculation with challenging natural-geographic and territorial constraints.

As the poet Robert Frost wrote, “Something there is that does not love a wall” in his “Mending Wall” poem. The wall in the poem symbolizes the emotional distance that the speaker wants to dissolve between him and his neighbor. Frost highlights the lack of inherent value in walls and their significance in disconnecting neighbors. The history of wall-building in the US tells us that while walls may have been necessary for protection, individualism, and nationalism, they also signify a lack of unity.

Advantages of wall-building Disadvantages of wall-building
Border security Costs of construction
Preventing illegal immigration Public backlash
Strengthening national identity Obstructing the free flow of economic commerce
Preventing smuggling activities The avoidance of legal immigrants seeking asylum

The current political discourse of wall-building has been shaped by a security-identity-conscious and seemingly isolationist view and has created a rift amongst the American populace for the past few years. However, history tells us the implementation of a great wall within a country carries significantly polarized consequences supporting the need to bring forth a unifying dialogue.

Psychological implications of building walls

The act of building walls can have profound psychological implications, both on the individual and the society as a whole. Here are some of the key points to consider:

  • Fear and mistrust: The act of building a wall is often driven by a deep-seated fear and mistrust of the “other.” It reflects a belief that one’s own safety and security can only be ensured by keeping others out, rather than through cooperation and mutual support.
  • Isolation and loneliness: Building walls can also lead to a sense of isolation and loneliness, as individuals and communities become cut off from the broader world. This can exacerbate feelings of insecurity and anxiety, leading to a cycle of fear and isolation.
  • Lack of empathy: Walls create a barrier that makes it harder to see the humanity in others. They can create an “us vs. them” mentality, in which people on one side of the wall are seen as fundamentally different from those on the other side. This can lead to a lack of empathy and a dehumanization of others, which can have devastating consequences.

Of course, the psychological implications of building walls are complex and multifaceted, and can vary greatly depending on the specific context. However, it is clear that the act of building walls reflects a deep-seated sense of fear and mistrust, and can contribute to isolation, loneliness, and a lack of empathy.

Positive aspects Negative aspects
Can provide a sense of security and protection Can lead to isolation and loneliness
May be necessary for national security Can create an “us vs. them” mentality
Can help maintain cultural identity Can lead to dehumanization of others

While there may be some positive aspects to building walls, it is clear that the negative implications far outweigh any potential benefits. As a society, we must work to overcome our fears and build bridges, rather than walls.

The significance of rural settings in literature

Rural settings in literature play a significant role in portraying the natural world and human relationship with the environment. Authors create the backdrop of their narrative in such settings to establish the tone, atmosphere, and mood of their stories. It is in these natural settings that the reader can identify with the characters’ emotions and thoughts and experience the narrative’s essence. One such example is the poem, Mending Wall, by Robert Frost, where the rural setting symbolizes more than just the physical landscape.

The Wall Symbolism in Robert Frost’s Mending Wall

  • The wall in Robert Frost’s Mending Wall symbolizes the emotional and mental barriers that humans create between themselves and others. The wall represents the divide between two neighbors, and their relationship becomes confined to this boundary. The poem highlights the human tendency to create borders and boundaries, leading to a lack of communication and understanding.
  • Additionally, the wall symbolizes the need for protection and security. The poem describes how the wall’s construction serves to protect one’s garden and property, but also serves to isolate oneself from others. This notion of security and isolation is prevalent in human relations today, where people seek comfort within their comfort zones.
  • The wall in the poem also symbolizes the tradition and heritage that humans inherit from their ancestors. The poem’s speaker notes how his father told him that “Good fences make good neighbors,” implying that the wall-building tradition has been passed down for generations. The wall represents the human need to preserve their culture and traditions, even at the expense of isolating themselves from others.

The Importance of Natural Settings in Literature

The rural setting in Mending Wall provides a natural environment that serves as a metaphor for the human condition. The natural setting in literature is essential as it provides the reader with a familiar environment that they can relate to. It also provides an excellent backdrop for portraying human emotions and behavior, allowing the reader to identify with the characters and the story’s essence.

Natural settings also provide the opportunity to showcase the beauty of nature and the contrast between it and the harsh realities of the human world. The natural setting in literature allows the reader to escape the monotony of the urban world and experience nature’s calming and soothing effect on the human psyche.


Rural settings in literature play a significant role in shaping the narrative and the reader’s understanding of the story’s message. The wall in Robert Frost’s Mending Wall serves as a metaphor for human behavior, emotions, traditions, and relationships. The poem’s rural setting allows the reader to experience the natural world and its effect on human behavior, creating a contrast between the human world and the natural environment. The significance of rural settings in literature cannot be overstated, and they serve as an essential tool for creating engaging and memorable narratives with a lasting impression on readers.

Pros of rural settings in literature Cons of rural settings in literature
Provides a natural backdrop that can be relatable to the readers May limit the scope of the story
Allows for the portrayal of human emotions and behavior in a natural environment May not be relatable to urban readers who are disconnected from the natural world
Creates a contrast between the beauty of nature and the harsh realities of human behavior and relationships May not be suitable for certain genres or themes

Overall, rural settings in literature have immense potential for creating engaging and relatable narratives that leave a lasting impression on the readers. The use of natural environments to portray human emotions, behavior, and relationships is an essential tool for authors and a valuable experience for readers.

Themes of isolation and connection in Frost’s poetry

Robert Frost’s poetry is known for its exploration of themes of isolation and connection. Many of Frost’s poems deal with the central question of how to navigate the tension between these two opposing forces. In “Mending Wall,” Frost uses the wall as a powerful symbol to explore this duality.

  • Isolation
  • One of the main themes in Frost’s poetry is the idea of isolation. Frost often explores the ways in which people can feel alone or cut off from others. This theme is present in “Mending Wall,” as the speaker highlights the physical and emotional distance that the wall creates between him and his neighbor.

  • Connection
  • Despite the pervasive theme of isolation in Frost’s poetry, there is also a strong theme of connection. Frost recognizes the need for human connection and explores the ways in which people can come together. In “Mending Wall,” the speaker and his neighbor come together to repair the wall, reflecting the idea that sometimes it is through working together that people can bridge the distance between them.

In addition to exploring the themes of isolation and connection, “Mending Wall” also uses the wall as a symbol for the ways in which people build barriers between themselves. The wall represents the physical and emotional walls that people put up to separate themselves from others. By repairing the wall, the speaker and his neighbor are able to come together and begin to break down these barriers.

Isolation Connection
The wall creates distance between the speaker and his neighbor The speaker and his neighbor come together to repair the wall
The speaker feels isolated in the woods The speaker finds a shared moment of connection with his neighbor through their work on the wall
The wall represents the barriers people put up to separate themselves from others The act of repairing the wall symbolizes the breakdown of these barriers

Overall, “Mending Wall” is a powerful exploration of the tension between isolation and connection. Through the use of the wall as a symbol, Frost is able to convey the complexities of this relationship and explore the many ways in which people build and break down barriers between themselves.

The role of nature in Frost’s poetry

Nature plays an integral role in Robert Frost’s poetry. It is both a backdrop and a character, helping to reveal aspects of the human experience. Frost often uses nature to contrast the complexities and ambiguities of human relationships, highlighting the tensions between the natural world and human interactions.

  • Frost’s poetry often reflects the power and beauty of nature, presenting it as a force that is both life-giving and destructive. In poems like “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” the snow and the darkness of the woods evoke a sense of isolation and introspection.
  • At other times, Frost’s portrayal of nature emphasizes its indifference to human affairs. In “Out, Out-,” the landscape continues on, unchanging, after the tragic death of a young boy.
  • The use of rural landscapes helps to create a sense of community in Frost’s poetry. In “Mending Wall,” the two neighbors work together each year to rebuild a stone wall that divides their property. This tradition is an important reminder of their connection to each other and to the land they share.

Frost’s poems often explore the ways in which the natural world and human interactions can both complement and conflict with one another. In “The Road Not Taken,” for example, the speaker must choose between two paths in the woods, symbolizing the decisions and choices that shape our lives.

Poem Nature’s Role
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening Creates a sense of isolation and introspection
Out, Out- Emphasizes nature’s indifference to human affairs
Mending Wall Shows a connection to the land and a sense of community

Frost’s poetry demonstrates the importance of the natural world in shaping our experiences and our sense of place in the world. Through his use of metaphor and imagery, Frost reveals the complexities and ambiguities of the human experience, highlighting the tensions between our human interactions and the world around us.

The Impact of Societal Norms on Individual Behavior

Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall raises various themes including the impact of societal norms on individual behavior. The wall in the poem symbolizes a form of boundary, whether geographical or social. According to the poem, the wall acts as a form of societal norm that influences the individual behavior of the two neighbors and how they relate to each other. Below are some insights into the impact of societal norms on individual behavior:

Effects of Societal Norms on Individual Behavior

  • Societal norms set the standards for what is considered acceptable behavior. They play a significant role in shaping an individual’s perspective and behaviors by providing guidelines for how they should act in certain situations.
  • Societal norms dictate social interactions, expectations, and relationships between individuals, leading to either conformity or deviation from established norms. They influence how individuals behave towards each other in social settings.
  • Societal norms can be positive by promoting social cohesion, providing structure for individuals, and promoting shared values. However, when societal norms are oppressive or conflict with individual values, they can lead to negative behavior, such as rebellion or avoidance.

The Wall and Societal Norms on Individual Behavior

Robert Frost’s Mending Wall explores the impact of societal norms on individual behavior through the wall. The wall represents the societal norms that limit the relationship between the two neighbors. The speaker believes that “good fences make good neighbors,” which represents his belief that societal norms create a boundary that limits the individuals’ relationship. The wall limits communication and interaction between the neighbors, which can create a barrier to understanding and mutual respect.

The wall’s repair every spring symbolizes the continuation of societal norms and expectations that dictate social interaction, even if they are not always necessary. The wall’s repair indicates that there is an obligation to maintain the societal norms, although they may not always be relevant or necessary for maintaining a good relationship between individuals.

The Role of Societal Norms in Group Behavior

Societal norms play a critical role in group behavior by shaping the way individuals communicate and interact with each other in groups. These norms provide a sense of structure and predictability, which can aid in successful group operations. However, they can also limit creativity and innovation by enforcing conformity in group goals and processes.

Positive Effects Negative Effects
Enhanced group cohesion Limitation of individual creativity and innovation
Promotion of shared values Enforcing conformity in group goals and processes
Clear group expectations and behavioral guidelines May exclude or discriminate against outliers and dissenters

The impact of societal norms on individual behavior is significant in shaping how individuals interact with each other and their environment. While societal norms can promote positive behaviors and values, such as respect and cohesion, they can also restrict individual creativity and cause negative behaviors, such as discrimination and exclusion. It is crucial to recognize these impacts and determine when societal norms need to be adjusted or left aside to promote a more inclusive and productive society.

Interpretations of “good fences make good neighbors”

The line “Good fences make good neighbors” is one of the most popular quotes from the poem “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost. The poem explores a conversation between two neighbors who come together every spring to mend the stone wall that separates their properties. Through this conversation, the poem also explores the deeper themes of isolation, communication, and the human condition. Here are some interpretations of what the wall in the poem might symbolize:

  • Physical barrier: At its most basic level, the wall in the poem represents a physical barrier that separates the two neighbors’ properties. It is a tangible representation of the division between them.
  • Emotional barrier: The wall can also be seen as an emotional barrier that separates the two neighbors. Despite their annual meetings to fix the wall, they do not actually communicate much beyond simple pleasantries.
  • Tradition: The poem can also be interpreted as a commentary on tradition and the role it plays in our lives. The narrator questions the need for the wall, while his neighbor insists that it is necessary to maintain the status quo.
  • Control: Another interpretation is that the wall represents a desire for control. The neighbor who insists on the wall is enforcing boundaries to ensure that his property and his way of life are not disrupted by the narrator’s actions.

Overall, the wall in “Mending Wall” can be seen as a symbol for a variety of themes and ideas. It can represent the physical and emotional barriers that separate people, the importance of tradition, or the need for control. What is clear, however, is that the wall is a complex symbol that invites multiple interpretations.

Analysis of the use of metaphor in Frost’s poetry

Metaphors are a vital part of Robert Frost’s poetry that gives his writing depth and richness. Frost uses metaphors to convey his ideas and connect with his readers on a deeper level. The use of metaphor is a common literary technique and is used throughout Frost’s poetry.

Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” is no exception when it comes to his use of metaphors. The wall in the poem is a metaphor for the barriers that people put up between each other. The barriers are both physical and emotional.

The use of the wall as a metaphor in the poem highlights the different types of walls people build. Frost’s narrator critically examines the idea of wall-building, questioning its necessity and highlighting its absurdity. The wall symbolizes the fences and boundaries that divide people, emphasize the sense of separation between them, and create conflict.

  • The wall in “Mending Wall” represents one of the central themes of Frost’s poetry, man’s struggle with the natural world. Frost’s narrator questions the efficacy of building walls, and its impact on the natural world and on human society.
  • The metaphorical use of the wall symbolizes the difference and unspoken boundaries between people. The narrator puts a question mark on the necessity of putting two walls, which are an unnecessary barrier that separates the two friendly neighbors.
  • The wall becomes a metaphor for the things that divide people, rather than bringing them together. It represents the obstacles that people put between themselves and each other. The physical wall also symbolizes the wall we build in our mind, something more of an emotional obstacle that baffles people from connecting to each other.

The wall in the poem is an important and powerful symbol, deliberately chosen by Frost to convey his theme. In his poetry, Frost effectively employs metaphors to communicate his ideas and bring concrete images to mind.

Metaphor What it represents in “Mending Wall”
The wall The barriers that people put between each other and the world. It symbolizes man’s struggle with the natural world and the dichotomy between people.

Frost’s poetry is renowned for its use of vivid and powerful metaphors that evoke strong emotions and resonate deeply with readers. The multiple layers of meaning, coupled with his use of metaphorical imagery, are the central point of his poetry. He confronts different human conflicts, namely man’s relationship with nature, individual identity, and the tensions between the rural and the urban settings. This use of metaphor is what makes Frost’s poetry so powerful and enduring.

What Does the Wall in the Poem Mending Wall Symbolize?

1. What is the poem “Mending Wall” about?
“Mending Wall” is a poem by Robert Frost that talks about two neighbors who meet every year to mend the wall that separates their properties.

2. What does the wall symbolize in the poem?
The wall in the poem symbolizes the barriers that humans erect to separate themselves from others.

3. What is the purpose of the wall?
The primary purpose of the wall in the poem is to separate the two neighbors’ properties.

4. What is the significance of the line “good fences make good neighbors”?
The line “good fences make good neighbors” implies that boundaries can improve relationships between people.

5. Why does the speaker question the need for the wall?
The speaker questions the need for the wall because he believes that it is unnecessary and that it only separates him from his neighbor.

6. What does the wall say about human nature?
The wall in the poem suggests that humans have a tendency to build barriers between themselves and others, even when they are not necessary.

7. What is the message of the poem?
The message of the poem is that humans should question the need for the barriers they erect between themselves and others and consider the benefits of breaking them down.

Closing Thoughts

So there you have it, folks- what the wall in Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” poem symbolizes. This poem reminds us that while fences or walls can sometimes improve relationships between people, we should not forget that they can also isolate us from others. It’s a great lesson we can all learn from. Thanks for reading, and be sure to visit us again for more literary insights!