Critical Essay On &Amp;Amp;Quot;Mending Wall&Amp;Amp;Quot;

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Critical Essay on "Mending Wall" Critic: Craig Dworkin Source:Poetry for Students, Vol. 5, Gale, 1999. Criticism about: Robert (Lee) Frost (1874-1963), also known as: Robert Lee Frost, Robert (Lee) Frost Genre(s): Dramatic monologues; Sonnets; Lyric poetry; Essays Robert Frost's "Mending Wall," like much of his poetry, invites a range of conventional interpretations; readers may be tempted to meet its homespun wisdom with moralizing humanist pieties, or to match its smug wit with equally condescending judgements about the two characters and their psychological portraits. Moreover, if the regionalist New-England setting suggests that we read "Mending Wall" as a realistic description of a rural landscape, the poems structured oppositions and the symbolic weight of the "wall" also encourages a host of allegorical readings. On any of these counts, however, the poem comes up short. Despite its air of profound judgement, the poem never rises above platitudes and simple-minded ideas, and its language wavers between goofy faux-colloquialisms and stilted inversions. But that language, however poorly handled, demonstrates an infinite resourcefulness. The inventive play of language itself, in fact, restores "Mending Wall" to the status of poetry and saves it from becoming the doggerel to which Frost's poems seem to aspire. Frost's wall requires attention because of "the gaps," and the gaps in his poem deserve attention as well. In his study the Semiotics of Poetry, theorist Michael Riffaterre argues that poetic texts are created when a gap opens between a word and a text. Poems, in his view, are constructed around absent centers (in the same way that a doughnut, say, takes shape around an empty hole). The absent center of the poem is a single unwritten word or phrase that does not actually appear in the poem, but around which the poem is written. Riffaterre calls

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