Frost: Troubled Romantic
Many authors before Robert Frost wrote through the lens of romanticism. Romantic writers offered their readers an interpretation of nature and the natural order of things as a means to comfort them when faced with life's difficulties. They proposed that nature could serve as a model, offer direction and allow humans to transcend their human condition. Another school of writers held that humans could not transcend nature or its order, they were the anti transcendentalists. Although they recognized nature as a model for human life, they did not believe humanity could rise above its inherent flaws and predestination for disaster. Frost's work reflects a troubled romantic view of the world. He attempts to reconcile these competing views of the world in his poems, "Mending Wall" and "Birches."
"Mending Wall" is a narrative of Frost and his neighbor mending the wall between their properties. However simple the poem seems, it serves as a complex argument between the two competing schools of thought. Nature sends Frost signals that the wall is useless, but his neighbor fails to understand. He just blindly follows the words of his father. His neighbor is characterized as being the opposite of Frost and is what reminds him that a purely romantic perception of the world is not entirely accurate. Frost, on the other hand, personified romanticism and contrasts the two. The neighbor is "all pine" while Frost is "apple orchard," and there is no need for a wall because Frost's "apple trees will never get across/ And eat the cones under his pines" (24-26) Frost translates romantic views of nature into characterizations of him and his neighbor. While the neighbor is a cold, prickly grove of pine trees, Frost is a fun and witty apple orchard. The neighbor represents aspects of nature that are not comforting, while Frost's comparison to an apple orchard is a comforting view of nature. Frost will go on to attempt reconciling these differences, giving the neighbor the opportunity to transcend his condition of prickly pine tree.
Nature attempts to send the neighbor and Frost the same message, that the wall is unnecessary, every year by making gaps in the wall. There is some force that "sends the frozen ground swell under" the wall "And spills the upper boulders in the sun; / And makes gaps even two abreast can pass" (2-5). Every year the ground swells below the wall, knocking the top boulders over. This creates an opening in the wall that Frost and his neighbor can choose to walk through, thus submitting to nature and following it rather than fighting it. Instead they "meet to walk the line/ And set the wall between us once again." (13-14). By choosing, year after year, to rebuild the wall they are refusing to submit to nature's power over them. They do not embrace its suggestions, and actually do the opposite of what it suggests. Although Frost seems to have failed at reconciling romanticism and anti...