Humans have an uncanny ability to place themselves at a comfortable distance from each other and call it a mutual understanding, a friendship, or even true love, but it is all lies. The essence of mans mystery is somewhat of a paradox. He yearns to become more familiar with those around him, yet he is unwilling to allow this to happen.
The power of “Mending Wall,” one of Frost’s most often quoted poems, rests upon an opposition. Its two famous lines contradict each other. The poem upholds that: Something there is that doesn’t love a wall. But it also asserts that: Good fences make good neighbors.
The contradiction is reasonable, for two different types of people utter the conflicting remarks and both are right. Man cannot live without walls, boundaries, limits and especially self-limitations; yet he resents all fetters and is happy at the destruction of any barrier. In “Mending Wall” the boundary line is useless:
There where it is we do not need the wall.
And, to stress the point, the speaker facetiously adds:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
One may find far-reaching connotations in this poem. As well as that it states one of the greatest difficulties of our time: whether national walls should be made stronger for our safety, or whether they should be let down, since they impede our progress toward understanding and eventual common humanity.
“Mending Wall” can also be considered a symbolic poem. In the voices of the two men the younger, capricious, “modern” speaker and the old-fashioned farmer who replies with his one dogged sentence, his inherited aphorism. Some may hear the opposition of two forces: the zeal of revolt, which challenges tradition, and the spirit of restraint, which insists that customs must be upheld, built up and continually rebuilt, as a matter of principle.
The poet himself looks down upon such symbolic analysis. He denies that the poem says anything more than it seems to say. The dispute is the heart of the poem. It answers itself in the paradox of people, in neighbors and competitors, in the antagonistic nature of man.
Roger Rosenblatts essay, A Game of Catch develops an idea using metaphor. The ball represents the fathers relationship with his son. It stands for all that is between them.
A ball travels between two people, each seeking a moment of understanding from the other, across the yard and the years. Some say the best conversations between people exist when neither of them say a word. Rosenblatt emphasizes that even though there is silence between him and his son, they both develop an understanding for what is being exchanged. It is on a deeper level than words can express. Rosenblatt exercises his connection with his son by spending time with him when talk is unnecessary.
He then continues to discuss professional ballplayers and points out that the relationship is the same. Even thought they make a living off the sport, the players share a common thread with the amateurs. The silence and mutual understanding resides on the field, same as the backyard.
He challenges what television says about talking to their children more often. Rosenblatt, once again, grew emphatic about the necessity of situations where talk is absent. Oscillating between his theory and the present-tense play by play of the game, he expresses clearly to the reader that no matter who, or how old you are, there lies a need to be understood without saying a word.
One would infer that according to both writers, good fences do not make good neighbors. Rosenblatt identifies the scarcity of these situations and situations when talk is omitted as detrimental to society. He believes that without communication, people cannot understand each other. Similarly, Frost expresses that the walls society creates thwart our advancement to mutual comprehension.
The fences that Frost refers to are the figurative lines one draws to keep himself disconnected to others. Rosenblatt likewise finds miscommunication or a lack thereof as deleterious to our well being.
Freedom of speech, as granted in the first amendment of the constitution, allows us to speak our minds without persecution. We were born with voices so we can talk. All of Gods creations, from bumblebees to grizzly bears, possess a form of communication. Not exercising this privilege is like dying of dehydration while wading in a lake because you dont want to get your hands wet.