"Mending Wall" - subjects and objects

Date: Wed, 10 Apr 1996 07:55:02 -0400 (EDT)

Leon: Let me try to explain what I meant by subject and object in "Mending Wall." By the term subject I didn't mean anything but the place or site or point of seeing/perception - ie., the place where "I" stands here (and we might, in shorthand, call it "Frost" but we really mean the farmer Frost as poet speaks through - what used to be called his "persona"). The object is in this case the other...the other person. If we're looking for a way in which this poem - deemed by tradition to be "about" farms and farmers and stone walls and mending time in spring - is indeed also a philosophical or theoetical poem about identity, and about poetry itself, we can find a testing of, and worrying about, the wall separating subject from object. Modern thought would have the wall down - and modern poetry specifically would for the most part not want to keep up the traditional limit on the subjective mind in its exploration of the other. A more conservative or traditional approach would want the wall up - and be mended when it begins to fall - for the sake of the order that derives from keeping the subject and object properly separate. Frost is wrestling with an intrepid poetic self that wants the wall down, because he suspects "good fences make good neighbors" to be an emptily repeated saying passing itself off as an ultimate truism; and he also has a sneaking suspicion that he created his neighbor (there's a good deal of the projection about that guy). But he wants the wall up because "good neighbors" (human relations) do depend on some separation, as does, he feels, art.--Al