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Analysis of Robert Frost and "Mending Wall"

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1576 words Published: 4th Sep 2017

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Robert Frost was born Robert Lee Frost in San Francisco, California to Isabelle Moodie and William Prescott Frost Jr. After his father died, his mother moved them to Salem, New Hampshire. Frost’s childhood was filled with literature- his mother read Shakespeare, Bible stories, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and other poets and writers aloud to him. Before long he was memorizing poetry and reading books on his own. Frost’s high school years were spent in Lawrence, Massachusetts. During high school, Frost became a writer: his poem “La Noche Triste,” appeared in the high school newspaper. At the beginning of his senior year he fell in love with Elinor White, who had also published poetry in the school newspaper. After graduation and before the summer ended, they pledged themselves to each other in a secret ritual.

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That fall, Elinor went to St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, and Frost attended Dartmouth on a scholarship. College life proved to not be for him. Isolated and restless, he quit at the end of December. He hoped that when Elinor came home in April that he could persuade her to drop out as well and marry him, but his efforts proved fruitless and she returned to college. Frost began working as a lamp trimmer in a factory in Lawrence, but quit after a few months to teach and write poetry. At the end of the term, good news greeted him: the New York Independent had accepted “My Butterfly: An Elegy,” with a stipend of $15. This was Frost’s first published poem. After this victory, he once again implored Elinor to marry him, and once again she refused. Eventually, however, she said yes and on December 19, 1895, they were married. Nine months later their son Elliot was born.

They both kept working as teachers, and Frost kept publishing poems. In the fall of 1897, thanks to his grandfather’s loan, Frost, at age twenty-three, entered Harvard in the hope of becoming a high school teacher of Latin and Greek. In March 1899, however, severe chest and stomach pains combined with worries about his ailing mother and pregnant wife forced him to leave Harvard. Frost gave up teaching and rented a poultry farm in Methuen. Two months later, Elliot, now three years old, fell ill with cholera and died. Frost never forgave himself for not having summoned a doctor in time, believing that God was punishing him. Elinor was devastated, but had to continue to care for their year old daughter, Lesley. Afterward, they moved to Derry, New Hampshire.

In the fall of 1911 he was teaching again in Plymouth, New Hampshire. In July 1912, he started making plans for a radical change of scene. He suggested to Elinor that they move to England, and she enthusiastically agreed. On 2 September 1912, the Frosts arrived in London. Before long he was finishing the manuscript of A Boy’s Will. In October the book was accepted for publication. By April 1913, most of the poems that would constitute North of Boston had been written. In May 1915, North of Boston appeared, to be hailed in June by important reviews. By August, Frost’s reputation as a leading poet had been firmly established in England, and Henry Holt of New York had agreed to publish his books in America. By the end of 1914, however, financial need forced him to leave Britain. When Frost and his family returned to the United States in February 1915, he was hailed as a leading voice of the “new poetry” movement.  In the following year he was made Phi Beta Kappa poet at Harvard and elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Mountain Interval, which appeared in November 1916, offered readers some of his finest poems, such as “Birches,” “Out, Out–,” “The Hill Wife,” and “An Old Man’s Winter Night.”

Frost’s move to Amherst in 1917 launched him on the twofold career he would lead for the rest of his life: teaching whatever “subjects” he pleased at a congenial college (Amherst, 1917-1963, with interruptions; the University of Michigan, 1921-1923, 1925-1926; Harvard, 1939-1943; Dartmouth, 1943-1949)In 1930 Frost won a second Pulitzer Prize for Collected Poems–the first had been won by New Hampshire–and in the next few years, other prizes and honors, including the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship of Poetry at Harvard. on 26 March 1938, Elinor died and his world collapsed. Four years before, in the wake of their daughter Marjorie’s death, they had helped each other bear the grief. Alone now, wracked in misery and guilty over his sometimes insensitive behavior toward Elinor, he hoped to find calm through his children, but Lesley’s ragings only deepened his pain. For some time he continued to teach, then resigned his position, sold his Amherst house, and returned to his farm. In July Theodore Morrison invited him to speak at the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference in August. Frost’s lectures enthralled his listeners, but at times his erratic public behavior drew worried attention. To the great relief of his friends, Kathleen Morrison, the director’s wife, stepped in to offer him help with his affairs. He accepted at once and made her his official secretary-manager.

Weeks before, however, Kathleen had called at his farm to invite him to visit her at a nearby summer house. Before long he proposed marriage, but she insisted on secrecy, on maintaining appearances

During the 1940s Frost published four new books: A Witness Tree (1942), inscribed “To K.M./For Her Part in It,” containing some of his finest poems. None but his intimates knew of the decade’s griefs: his son Carol’s suicide in 1940, his daughter Irma’s placement in a mental hospital in 1947. In the last fourteen years of his life Frost was the most highly esteemed American poet of the twentieth century, having received forty-four honorary degrees and a host of government tributes, including birthday greetings from the Senate, a congressional medal, an appointment as honorary consultant to the Library of Congress, and an invitation from John F. Kennedy to recite a poem at his presidential inauguration. Thrice, at the State Department’s request, he traveled on good-will missions: to Brazil (1954), to Britain (1957), and to Greece (1961, on his return from Israel, where he had lectured at the Hebrew University).

In the Clearing, Frost’s ninth and last collection of poems, appeared on 26 March 1962. On 2 December at the Ford Forum Hall in Boston Frost made his last address and, though admitting he felt a bit tired, he stayed the evening through. In the morning he felt much too ill to keep his doctor’s appointment. After considerable wrangling, he agreed to enter a hospital “for observation and tests.” He remained in its care until his death in the early hours of 29 January 1963. Tributes poured in from all over the land and from abroad. A small private service on the 31st at Harvard’s Memorial Church for family members and friends was followed by a public one on 17 February at the Amherst College Chapel, where 700 guests listened to Mark Van Doren’s recital of eleven Frost poems he had chosen for the occasion. Eight months later, at the October dedication of the Robert Frost Library at Amherst, President Kennedy paid tribute to the poetry, to “its tide that lifts all spirits,” and to the poet “whose sense of the human tragedy fortified him against self-deception and easy consolation.”


Plea for tearing down barriers that keep us apart

The fact that the narrator continues to help build the wall despite his abhorrence of it suggests the weakness of people in their convictions. Even though people want to change, many times they never have to courage to go against what others say.

We create these barriers between us to keep the unknown out because deep down it scares us

It is not the natural way to be- nature continuously tries to tear down the wall- even the rounded stones didn’t want to support each other and keep the wall up.


Meyer, Bruce. “Critical Essay on ‘Mending Wall’.” Poetry for Students, edited by Mary Ruby, vol. 5, Gale, 1999. Literature Resource Center, libraries.state.ma.us/login?gwurl=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=mlin_n_bishop&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CH1420042989&it=r&asid=249423e618b8705c63388bc86683d232. Accessed 14 Mar. 2017.

“Frost, Robert (Lee).” Merriam Webster’s Encyclopedia of Literature, Merriam-Webster, 1995. Literature Resource Center, libraries.state.ma.us/login?gwurl=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?p=LitRC&sw=w&u=mlin_n_bishop&v=2.1&id=GALE%7CRN1480003591&it=r&asid=337b87a12c96fb85f72f64f7ad0fafc5. Accessed 14 Mar. 2017.

DeFusco, Andrea , Bruno Leone, and Bonnie Szumski, eds. Readings on Robert Frost. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Print.

Squires, Radcliffe. The Major Themes of Robert Frost. N.p.: The U of Michigan Press, 1963. Print.


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