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The Themes of Robert Frost’s Mending Wall

The Themes of Robert Frost’s Mending Wall

One of the major themes of Frost’s Mending Wall is the cycle of the seasons. Several phrases refer to the seasons, particularly in a repetitive, cyclic way: “spring mending-time,” “frozen ground-swell,” “once again,” “spring is the mischief in me.” Another theme is parallelism or the lack of it. Sometimes this parallelism takes a physical form, associated with the wall, as we imagine the two men walking parallel paths: “We meet to walk the line.” “We keep the wall between us as we go.” “One on a side.” It is a mental wall, though, as well as a physical one, and I read the gaps as making possible a meeting of minds and attitudes as well as of lands and bodies. Closing the gaps in the wall means closing off points where the two men might meet physically or mentally. As the poet says, “If I could put a notion in his head,” but he can’t. The two men, the two minds, will remain parallel, on opposite sides of a wall.

I find parallelism in the language as well as in the central image of the two men walking along a wall. I find it in phrasings like “To each the boulders that have fallen to each.” “And some are loaves and some so nearly balls.” “Walling in or walling out.” I find it most centrally in “Good fences make good neighbors,” whose neat parallelism contrasts in my mind with the redundancy, the tangled, circling syntax of “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.”

The parallelisms in phrasing lead me to think of speech and language themselves as themes. I find many phrases like, “‘I tell him,” “He only says,” “I’d rather he said it,” “his father’s saying,” “He says again.” The neighbor speaks “his father’s saying” twice. The poet also speaks twice, and both their repetition…

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…rresponds to the poet’s wayward imaginings, the walls-up to the control of that imagination.

Works Cited Frye, Northrop. Northrop Frye on Twentieth-Century Literature University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division (February 13, 2010)

Holland, Norman Norwood. The Brain of Robert Frost: A Cognitive Approach to Literature. Routledge (October 1988) Poirier, Richard. Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing Stanford University Press (April 1, 1990)

Dreams in Young Goodman Brown and in the Life of Its Author

Dreams in “Young Goodman Brown” and in the Life of Its Author

The entire allegory of “Young Goodman Brown” is incoroporated into a dream, depending on the reader’s interpretation of the Hawthorne tale. In his own life Hawthorne had dreams and made personal use of them.

In 1847 Edgar Allan Poe, reviewing Hawthorne’s tales in “Tale-Writing: A Review” for Godey’s Lady’s Book, has this to say about his dreamy approach to writing:

Now, my own opinion of him is, that although his walk is limited and he is fairly

to be charged with mannerism, treating all subjects in a similar tone of dreamy innuendo [italics mine], yet in this walk he evinces extraordinary genius, having no rival either in America or elsewhere; and this opinion I have never heard gainsaid by any one literary person in the country

Hawthorne’s dreamy approach to life began at a very young age, as mentioned by James Russell Lowell in “Hawthorne” in A Fable For Critics (1848).

His mind developed itself; intentional cultivation might have spoiled it…. He used to invent long stories, wild and fanciful, and tell where he was going when he grew up, and of the wonderful adventures he was to meet with, always ending with, ‘And I ‘m never coming back again,’ in quite a solemn tone, that enjoined upon us the advice to value him the more while he stayed with us.

“Young Goodman Brown” opens with the young Puritan husband leaving his wife for the evening so that he can secretly attending a witches’ meeting in the middle of the forest. As he leaves the house:

“Dearest heart,” whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, “pr’ythee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep i…

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…-oriented that his philosophy of life includes dream imagery.


Benoit, Raymond. “‘Young Goodman Brown’: The Second Time Around.” The Nathaniel Hawthorne Review 19 (Spring 1993): 18-21.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Complete Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Doubleday and Co., Inc.,1959. 247-56.

James, Henry. Hawthorne.

Lowell, James Russell. “Hawthorne.” In A Fable For Critics. 1848.

Martin, Terence. Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Twayne Publishers Inc., 1965.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “Tale-Writing: A Review.” In Godey’s Lady’s Book, November, 1847, no. 35, pp. 252-6.

Wagenknecht, Edward. Nathaniel Hawthorne – The Man, His Tales and Romances. New York: Continuum Publishing Co., 1989.

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