The Theme of Isolation in Robert Frost's The Mending Wall
Robert Frost's "The Mending Wall" is a comment on the nature of our society. In this poem, Frost examines the way in which we interact with one another and how we function as a whole. For Frost, the world is often one of isolation. Man has difficulty communicating and relating to one another. As a result, we have a tendency to shut ourselves off from others. In the absence of effective communication, we play the foolish game of avoiding any meaningful contact with others in order to gain privacy.
"The Mending Wall" describes two neighboring farmers who basically live in isolation, at least from one another. Frost's use of language reinforces the idea of isolation. When writing about the wall's annual collapse, Frost uses the word "gaps" to describe the holes in the wall. However, this could also stand for the "gaps" that the neighbors are placing between each other. "No one has seen them made or heard them made" but somehow the gaps naturally exist and are always found when the two get together.
The narrator describes the location of his neighbor as "beyond the hill", another phrase suggesting isolation. The separation between the two men is apparent, both physically and mentally. Even when the neighbor comes from "beyond the hill" on the fence mending day, he remains far away. The narrator describes how his neighbor seems to "move in darkness ... not of woods only and the shade of trees". The darkness hanging over him is his inability to communicate and relate with others. He is unwilling to "go behind his father's saying, and he likes having thought of it so well He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors.'" For the neighbor, this saying serves as a source of comfort. He will not attempt to relate to his neighbor. Instead, he always falls back on what he has been taught by his father. He has learned that it is easier to shut someone out than to attempt to effectively communicate.
While the narrator seems more willing to reach out to his neighbor, in the end, he does not. He does wonder why fences supposedly make good neighbors. For him, the question is what is he "walling in or walling out"? He seems to realize that he is "walling out" other...