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What is a detailed summary of Robert Frost's "Mending Wall"?

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Quick Answer

"Mending Wall" by Robert Frost focuses on two neighbors who meet to make repairs on a stone wall that separates their two homes. The poem's speaker sees no point in maintaining the wall, since neither of the neighbors has any cows or other livestock to confine to their property. The speaker questions the neighbor about this, but the neighbor only repeats the saying, "Good fences make good neighbors."

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Full Answer

According to SparkNotes, the wall can function as a symbol of the boundaries that segregate people from one another. The wall can be seen to represent both literal boundaries and figurative ones, such as the laws and practices that maintain order in society. The mending of the wall is referred to in ritualistic, almost mystic terms: the two men use "a spell" to make stones in the wall balance, and the speaker jokingly references the idea that the wall might be used to keep out elves. Wall-building is an ancient practice and one the speaker views as possibly outdated; he compares his neighbor, lifting a stone, to "an old-stone savage armed." While the speaker seems to acknowledge the futile, antiquated nature of the act, he is also the one who sets the annual meeting to repair the wall, adding a level of ambiguity to the poem. He claims there is no need for the wall, but his mending of it indicates that he may not believe this entirely.

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