Perspectives on Friendship

What does a good friendship mean to you? One might say it’s knowing everything or almost everything about another person and telling them every small thing. Another may say it’s not talking to someone for the longest time but when you do it’s as if nothing’s changed. Different people have different perspectives on what friendship means to them and this theme is quite prominent in Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall”. This painting which I made helps explain the poem “Mending Wall”.

mending wall

In the poem “Mending Wall” Robert Frost uses the symbolism of a wall to portray two different viewpoints on creating and maintaining friendship.

The wall dividing the face in this painting is continuous but has a few gaps in it. Similarly, if we look at the structure of “Mending Wall” we can see that the entire poem consists of a single stanza. The structure of the poem itself is like a wall. The gaps in the walls and the different sized stones represent inconsistency. Most of the lines in the poem follow iambic pentameter but there are 10 lines which have 11 syllables, 1 which has 4 and 1 with 6- these lines are inconsistent with the rest of the poem.

Now what does the wall itself symbolize? A wall is generally used to create boundaries, and that’s what it literally does in this poem as well. It separates the speaker and neighbor’s plots of land. However, the irony of the wall and the title of this poem “Mending Wall” is that it shows us the opposing viewpoints of the neighbor and the speaker. The speaker thinks the wall is preventing their friendship from growing whereas the neighbor thinks that the wall is allowing their friendship to be preserved. The wall acts as a way of differentiating between the viewpoints of the speaker and the neighbor on how to maintain friendship, but it doesn’t separate the two completely.

The sideways question mark shows the overall tone of the poem- questioning. But if we look deeper, this question mark shows more. The top part of the question mark is near the speaker’s mouth because the speaker is the one who’s questioning. the presence of the wall.  However bottom  part of the question mark, is a period, and it shows us how the neighbor is adamant and will not changing his views about the wall needing to be there to create good friendship between the speaker and the neighbor. The curved nature of the question mark also represents how the speaker is not straightforward about his opinion of the neighbor. The speaker never directly says that the neighbor is unnecessarily stubborn or that the neighbor’s thoughts are stupid. Instead he says in lines 44-46,

He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again good fences make good neighbors

which shows that the speaker doesn’t agree with the neighbor’s thought that the wall needs to be there to allow their friendship to grow. So, the tone of the poem is not only questioning, it is also friendly but firm, and slightly sarcastic at the same time.

When we look at the left side of the painting the colors are more subtle and soothing whereas the right side is dark and more distanced.  The gradual change of color represents the shift of mood throughout the poem. The poem’s mood is initially calm- the speaker opens the poem by saying,

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen ground swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The mood then shifts and becomes gloomy, as in lines 15-16  the speaker says,

We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

Finally, in lines 42-43, the speaker says,

He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

meaning that the speaker thinks the neighbor brings unnatural darkness shadowing their friendship. This makes the final mood of the poem sad and depressed. This shift in mood shows that the speaker thinks the neighbor’s thought of the necessity of the wall is what will eventually create an undesired distance between both of them- not only physically but emotionally as well, which will diminish their friendship.

Punctuation and Language
Now let’s look at the cracks at the bottom of this painting and the boulders at the top. How do cracks form? One reason cracks form is due to the repeated contraction and expansion of rock. What I found really interesting was the punctuation and language used in  lines 2, 3 and 4:

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

In the first line, the use of dashes between frozen, ground and swell make the reader feel as if something is being pulled together, or contracting. In the second line, the absence of these dashes along with the use of words such as spills, upper and sun, creates a sense of freedom, or something expanding. And this contraction and expansion is what results in gaps being created that “even two can pass abreast”. The speaker believes that the wall is constricting their friendship and making it cold like a frozen ground and that their friendship can only grow if the boulders spill and the wall breaks.

The repetition of certain lines and words in the poem contribute to emphasizing the speakers’ point of view on friendship. The repetition of “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall” in lines 1 and 36 portrays the fact that the “something”, nature, doesn’t want the wall to stand or exist. The repetition of “the wall between us” in lines 14-15 “ and set the wall between us once again. we keep the wall between us as we go”, makes the reader understand how prominent the wall is and that it is constantly dividing the speaker and the neighbor and their friendship. “Good fences make good neighbors” is repeated in lines 27 and 46 and this reminds the reader of the neighbor’s point of view and what thought the speaker is questioning in the poem. The repetition of the word walling in line 34, “before I built a wall I’d like to know what I was walling in or walling out” creates a sense of seclusion and confinement in the reader’s mind which the speaker in the poem is experiencing.

As you can see the boulders are of varying sizes. In the poem the metaphor “some are loaves and some so nearly balls” in line 17 describes the size of the boulders and further emphasizes nature’s dislike of the wall. Nature is trying to make it harder for the speaker and neighbor to create the wall by giving them boulders which will not easily fit together as it thinks that the wall is unnatural and it hinders formation of true friendship between the neighbor and speaker.

If we look at this face, the left side is more vibrant and welcoming than the right. In line 24 the speaker says that the neighbor is “all pine and I am apple orchard”. This metaphor conveys the speaker’s opinion that he has a warm and sweet personality whereas the neighbor is unapproachable, unfriendly and stubborn and this personality of the neighbor is what will contribute to their friendship becoming sour and distanced.

Contrasting Motifs
One eye is looking down, it reciprocates a sense of a quieter person whereas the eye looking straight ahead gives the feeling of a bolder person. The eyes represent the contrasting motif of nature and man. Today we can see that man has altered the natural surroundings around himself by taking over nature. The wall which man creates in this poem, is against nature- it’s not supposed to be there. The eye looking straight ahead shows how stubborn man has become and the eye looking down symbolizes nature and it’s defeat as the wall is still created between the speaker and the neighbor, dividing them and negatively impacting their friendship.

This poem has one main message for us- we face several boundaries and obstacles throughout our life but today we are creating more boundaries for ourselves by going against nature- maybe we would be better off if we left some things in their natural state.


Toddler Teaching ^_^

     Spending time with children is something I love doing. So this summer when we went to Calcutta I decided I would help teach the pre-nursery class in my old school, Calcutta International School. The children in this class were between two and three years old and I found them to be completely adorable. There isn’t much to teach them other than getting them to paint, sitting quietly, standing in a line, making them eat or playing with them outside but I enjoyed this time thoroughly and learnt a few things about toddlers as well.

     There were some children who were extremely friendly and others who took more time to become comfortable around me. But I realized that toddlers are very innocent and that they become happy with the smallest things. They don’t need much to keep themselves busy, they’re happy within themselves and their own imaginations. They respond to the environment and mood around them. If you’re happy, they become happy; if you’re sad, they come to see what happened; if they want attention from you, they have the cutest way of trying to get it- for example there was one kid, Tridarsh, who was quite fond of me. Every time he wanted attention from me he’d just come and tell me, “I want to go home to Mom and Dad” and I would hug him and tell him, “Right now you be with me”. Another girl, Megan, would just come and sit next to me and put my hand around herself. Other children would come and hold my hand and not let go or sit on top of me. By the time I had to leave all the children recognized me and I became extremely fond of them.

     Toddlers aren’t concerned about anything other than themselves and their own play time. For them, having to sit in the ‘Thinking Chair’ is a punishment. cisbabies4But as these same children grow older, there will be some who will develop an immense amount of attitude, or some who will do anything to get things their way- they won’t stay as innocent as they are now. What causes this development and change? I feel that it’s not only the schooling environment but also the environment in which they grow up in at home. Children learn from what they see others do and what they are taught to be right and wrong. Today, parents always tell their children to perform well in school so that they can get a good job and do well in the future. Of course that is very important but I believe that more than teaching children to perform well in school, it is crucial to teach them values which will make them better people. According to me, the values one has and the person one is, is more important than any academic accomplishment. If one isn’t a good person at heart, nothing else matters.

     Being with kids,  seeing them happy and jumping around all the time; not caring about anything else besides their play time; or worrying about anything, makes me think of how simple everything is for them and during the time I spend with them, everything becomes that simple for me as well. 🙂