“Mending Wall” The understanding and practice of community, and being a good neighbor means different things in different eras, although, there are many common themes within the topic that remain constant through time. The understanding of personal property, boundaries, and personal privacy, somewhat contrast with the need for community, being neighborly, allowing people in to your life, and to know you in a personal way.
Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall” speaks to a timeless tug of war that is truly found in human nature, an endless longing and need for human contact.
But also, a self-preservation mechanism rooted deep in our psyche that lends to yearning for ownership, for a slice of the World we call our own, to hide our true selves, that we protect with selfish regard to let no one in. These mechanisms started out as tribal and moved into the realm of gaining ground and holding it for the betterment of one’s own community. Kingdoms, empires, and Countries where born out of this struggle between self-preservation and needing human contact within a society.
The two characters within the “Mending Wall” speak to the two aspects of the internal struggle we have between protection of self-interests as property and belonging to a grander more open and connected World among people and nature.
Trachtenberg points to the two sides as being the narrator connecting to a struggle with understanding a futile attempt to control boundaries, even though, he may have a desire for a more open understanding of ownership, and the neighbor who takes a harder line stance insisting that fences and boundaries make for good neighbors (2).
The history of borders and what they mean to different cultures is one of conflict, both neighbor to neighbor, and Country to Country. Lange et al. points to borders being a manifestation of clashing religious, political, cultural, and socio-economic ideals (293). These ideals have different context in different time, this gives a sense that borders between us are a living thing with different realities for each person depending on which side of this boundary you are on. Robert Frost gained notoriety in an era where life was becoming modern in America, new advances, products, and home ownership was on the rise (Spargo 39). This era and his experience within it may speak to the two sides that are present in “Mending Wall”.
An understanding that growth and modernization brings abundance and ownership, protecting what you have worked hard for. While yet having a slight longing for a simpler time where things were open, and people gathered together instead of retreating into their dwellings. The wall is timeless, the concept of borders and protecting your own without regard will be a part of the full human existence. Allowing ourselves to let our guard down and be a good neighbor is a struggle in modern times, Frost speaks to this tug of war not as something to fear, but as something to regard as simply a part of nature. But nature over time will swallow all walls, Frost has a sense of this as he speaks of nature’s yearly attack on the wall, it’s the one thing that will never yield.