Mending Wall

Author

Frost, Robert

Genre

Poetry

Overview

Robert Frost is perhaps the most famous American poet of the twentieth century. The narrator of this well-known poem is a landowner who meets once a year with his neighbor to mend the wall between their properties, even though the narrator does not know what he is "walling in or walling out." He believes that fences are unnatural and sees no reason for the wall's existence--"there are no cows," only trees--but the neighbor just stoically repeats that "Good fences make good neighbors." Is this saying true? Why does the narrator believe that walls are unnatural, and what does the title suggest is the wall's purpose?

Full Text*

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Source

The Civically Engaged Reader, eds. Davis & Lynn, (Great Books Foundation, 2006).

Type

Reading - Short Enough to Read Aloud.

Themes

Connection and RelationshipDiversity and DifferenceRoles and Boundaries

Big Questions

What causes division between people and groups?Why is connection important? What does it enable? What does it impede?How do we connect with those who are different from us?How do we learn to have dialogue across difference? What does it look like?Is it important to set boundaries? Why?What happens when boundaries are crossed? Can they change?

Publication

Civically Engaged Reader

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. What do you make of the "gap"?
  2. What do you think of "good fences make good neighbors"?
  3. When are boundaries good and when are they problematic?
  4. When serving others, should there be any walls up?
  5. What obligations do we have to the people we serve or work with?
  6. How much should we connect with others, professionally or in service?
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