Poetry Intent Paper                                                                                                       
Emily Gunther
Word Count: 800                                                                                                                      
Comm 108

                                                                                                                                                                        Nov. 1, 2002


"Mending Wall"




                     Robert Frost's poem, "Mending Wall", is one filled with rich imagery. Using sensory and literary imagery Frost creates an elaborate scene where youthful new ideas are pitted against those of the older, more stubborn generation. In my performance I hope to illustrate these ideas.

                     I chose this poem on the basis of how it related to my own life, or its intertextuality. The speaker in "Mending Wall" is a younger person, most likely a man, who has to deal with his older neighbor's ideas and practices. I can easily see the speaker's point of view, as I have lived with my grandmother for over eighteen years and often have similar disagreements with her practices, beliefs and sayings. No matter how hard the speaker or I may try, those of the older generation will not yield to new ideas. They are sometimes just stuck in their ways and habits, and often feel more compelled to uphold the ideals of their parents' generation gone by. Another reason for my choosing this poem is its sensory and literary imagery.

                     The sensory imagery of "Mending Wall" targets tactile, auditory, visual, thermal and kinetic senses. With the tactile sense, the reader can feel physical conditions of the speaker's hands in line 20, as the speaker remarks, "We wear our fingers rough with handling them." Many people can understand the callused, painful feeling hands can have after hard labor. This tactile sense also provides for a universal feel to the poem. Next, auditory senses are addressed. The reader can hear "the yelping dogs" the hunters try to please. Visually the reader gets very clear images of the wall, its gaps, the activity that brought it to deteriorate and the activity being done to fix it. Thermally the ideas of "spring" and "frozen-ground-swell" portray the idea of a crisp and still cold time of the season. Kinetic senses are addressed in phrases like "spills the upper boulders in the sun", where the movement of the rock can be seen, heard and felt. Besides sensory imagery, there are also some forms of literary imagery in "Mending Wall".

                     There are apostrophes, metaphors, personification and similes in this poem. When the "Something" is discussed it is referred to as more of an absent person, inanimate object, God, muse or deceased person, making this reference an apostrophe. The idea is very ambiguous to both the reader and the speaker. Metaphor can be seen in line 21, where the mending of the wall is directly compared to an "out-door game". In lines 25-26, "My apple trees…" is a personification. Here the apples trees are able to go over the wall and "eat the cones". Simile is used in line 40 where the old man is compared to an "old-stone savage armed". This brings the idea that the speaker feels the old man's beliefs are antiquated, useless and crude, like he is stuck in the stone or dark ages. Imagery and the other aspects of this poem are all things that I hope to portray in my performance.

                     The speaker will be in an open expanse next to a deteriorated wall. This will be shown through the speaker's interaction with the wall, and his walking up and down its length. The speaker will be behind the wall, near the door of the classroom, suggesting a more open mindset. When referring to or speaking for the old man, I will be on the other side of the wall, showing a more closed off frame of mind. When the speaker addresses the old man the focus will be closed, but otherwise the focus will be open to the audience. The speaker's body will be portrayed as a younger, spry man by my quicker movement and upright posture. The old man will be hunched over and crooked, with a more strained voice.

Movement and staging will be used to illustrate the continuous wall, its gaps and the position of the speaker and the old man. Gesture will indicate the location of the neighbor's house "beyond the hill", the "yelping dogs", and the position of the wall and the loose stones. Also, between the speaker and the old man, to show the age difference and the respect of the older generation, the speaker will tip his hat to his neighbor when they "meet to walk the line". These are all ideas that I hope to portray in my interpretation.

                     I have enjoyed Robert Frost's poetry since I was introduced to it. I think "Mending Wall" is one of his best works. Not only does it convey a universal theme and offers ambiguity, it also is filled with sensory and literary imagery. For interpretation this poem is one of the best to perform.



"Mending Wall"

By: Robert Frost


1           Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

2           That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

3           And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

4           And makes gaps that even two can pass abreast.

5           The work of hunters is another thing:

6           I have come after them and made repair

7           Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

8           But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

9           To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

10       No one has seen them made or heard them made,

11       But at spring mending-time we find them there.

12       I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;

13       And on a day we meet to walk the line

14       And set the wall between us once again.

15       We keep the wall between us as we go.

16       To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

17       And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

18       We have to use a spell to make them balance:

19       "Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"

20       We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

21       Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

22       One on a side. It comes to little more:

23       There where it is we do not need the wall:

24       He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

25       My apple trees will never get across

26       And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

27       He only says, "Good fences make good neighbours."

28       Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

29       If I could put a notion in his head:

30       "Why do they make good neighbours? Isn't it

31       Where there are cows. But here there are no cows.

32       Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

33       What I was walling in or walling out,

34       And to whom I was like to give offence.

35       Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

36       That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him,

37       But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather

38       He said it for himself. I see him there

39       Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

40       In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

41       He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

42       Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

43       He will not go behind his father's saying,

44       And he likes having thought of it so well

45       He says again, "Good fences make good neighbours."


By: E. Gunther

Apostrophe="Something" is being referred to as an absent person, God, muse, etc.

Thermal Imagery

Kinetic Imagery

Primary Cadence





Auditory Imagery/Primary Cadence


Primary Cadence

Gesture to one side to show location &endash; raise voice to illustrate distance

Tip hat and bow to illustrate age difference and respect for older generation/Primary Cadence

Primary Cadence

Use utterance and physicalizers to express the weight and size difference of the stones

Primary Cadence

Tactile Imagery

Primary Cadence

Literary Imagery-Metaphor

Primary Cadence


Literary Imagery-Personification

Primary Cadence

Get on other side of the wall to illustrate old man's location and view point/Primary Cadence

FULCRUM-change in mood, speaker is getting ideas


Primary Cadence



Primary Cadence (twice)




Physicalize/Act out to illustrate imagery of old man

Literary Imagery-Simile





Step over the wall, hunch over and hold the ending