American Lit II (EL 267)

26 Jan 2006

Frost, ''Mending Wall'' and ''After Apple-Picking'' (1915)

Read these short poems, then print them out and mark them up.

Leave a brief comment here (or on your SHU weblog, if you're feeling up to it) in which you present a thought that only occurred to you after you spent some tme with these short works..

Mending Wall
After Apple-Picking

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Posted by: Sean Runt at January 25, 2006 11:07 AM

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

The speaker describes his neighbor as "moving in darkness," but this imagery can have a thousand different meanings.
>Does the darkness represent ignorance? Is he pointing out flaws in his neighbor's thinking? Is he implying that his neighbor is bound by old and illogical ideas in insisting that there be a wall?
>Does the darkness stand for some kind of wickedness in his neighbor?
>Does the darkness symbolize that his neighbor might be a mysterious character, one who has an inner wall of his own?
>Does the darkness stand for something else that I can't fit into the few minutes Dr. Jerz gave us to type?

Posted by: Megan Ritter at January 25, 2006 08:02 PM

...But at spring mending-time we find them there,
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line...

The men get along well enough to fix their common fence together, and they agree that sections of their properties don't need to be fenced off from each other. Still, they repair the fence. The author beleives that it's unnatural; the neighbor relies on the tradition of his father's saying.

Posted by: Brenda Christeleit at January 25, 2006 08:02 PM

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

This particular line stood out to me in this poem. Each time I read it, I thought about how people hide themselves from others (the fence). And although we leave our gaurd down at times, we never complettely do so.

Posted by: Christine Hines at January 25, 2006 08:03 PM

"Spring is the mischief in me."

I like this line of the poem because it is playful. The writer states that he is an apple tree and the other is a pine. Spring brings apples that may want to cross the fenses which is illustrated by the word mischief. It makes me think of a young curious child that crosses a boundary to explore the unknown.

Posted by: Onilee Smith at January 25, 2006 08:04 PM

Walls have come to represent many things in human nature, perhaps the most signifigant of which are barriers against something you fear, or ways in which to hold something captive. This, to me, says more about human nature than about the walls themselves, and Frost's "Mending Wall" makes this point perfectly: "Before I built a wall I'd ask to know What I was walling in or walling out" He seems to imply that all to often people build walls without considering what the consequences will be after they are finished, or even why they are being built at all.

Posted by: Paul M. Crossman at January 25, 2006 08:05 PM

After Apple-Picking
He has things in life left undone (empty barrels).
"Magnified apples appear and disappear, Stem end and blossom end" His life passes before him, both beginnings and endings. The apples that have fallen and become cider may represent mistakes he has made and he is unsure where he will pass to in the end: "This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is".

The Mending Wall seems to be saying that nature shows us how we should act towards one another by persistently breaking down walls we make, but that often people will not analyze (go behind) what they have heard or been taught. It is easier to play "just another kind of outdoor game" than to discuss why we hold back with one another.

Posted by: Jennifer DiFulvio at January 25, 2006 11:09 PM

I don't know why I began by counting the syllables in "Mending Wall". Perhaps it was because the lines are nearly uniform length. However, if I counted correctly, nearly all the lines have 10 syllables apiece. The seven that do not, contain 11 syllables.

I wanted at first to chalk this up to mere happenstance, but Frost constructs a few of the lines in a "disjointed" manner - the lines seem awkward, so much like sentence fragments that I think it must have been intentional.

That construct is apparent in lines like:
"Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows."

And also:

"But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,"

But why exactly 11 syllables in each of those seven lines? Why don't we see 12, or eight or 13? Why 11? Call me crazy, but maybe those are metaphorical "gaps" in the wall?

I mentioned this to a friend who suggested if that were actually the case, wouldn't nine syllables have represented a so-called "gap" more accurately? Maybe so. Maybe I'm just reaching.

Incidentally, regarding the lines:

"I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
and set the wall between us once again."

It seems to me there is a physical (stone) wall between them, but there seems also to be a figurative wall between them in that they don't seem to be close neighbors.

Perhaps they're from different generations and the neighbor beyond the hill is older by a number of years, which might constitute a generational "wall". Of the two, the neighbor beyond the hill seems to be more intent to repair that wall and keep the barrier between them in tact.

I once had a neighbor named Carl, who was a great deal older than me. He was very territorial and did not want to compromise one square inch of his yard.

He even went so far as to build a fence at the edge of his property, I suppose to screen us out, but also to solidly establish (or so he must have thought) the limits of his own property.

Seeing that fence each day and understanding its purpose was quite annoying to me, as I felt I was a decent guy to know and I had no intention to annex any part of his yard.

That fence kept us divided and prevented us from ever getting to know each other at any casual level. Maybe that's exactly what Carl - and the neighbor in the poem - wanted.

I guess at the time, I felt a great deal like the speaker when he questions the need for the wall.

Posted by: Matt Hampton at January 25, 2006 11:22 PM

"For I have had too much
Of apple picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired."

"One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is."

This poem depicts the joy of apple picking - the sights, the smells, the pain in his feet - and yet sometimes we can do and feel something so much that the routine and desire leads to exhaustion. It is not until it is all over that we sit back and think.

Posted by: Shanelle Evkovich Kapusta at January 25, 2006 11:30 PM

In "After Apple-Picking" I got the sense the author is also speaking of his own demise.

I know, I know, but stay with me a minute ....

We all know spring is a metaphor for youth and winter is a metaphor for old age or the end of a life. So "the essence of winter sleep" (hibernation) "is on the night" may mean he is older and he's feeling that he doesn't have many years left.

Picking apples from the tree represents memories or events in his life that were "cherished in hand, lift down and not let fall" Some memories are precious, while other memories we accumulate are painful or embarassing. Those memories are bruised and destined for the "cider-apple heap As of no worth."

Maybe the apples left in the tree represent missed or ignored opportunities. I like Jennifer's idea that the barrels, those full and empty represent tasks completed or unfinished.

Finally he again contemplates what his death might be like "This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is"

Haven't we all wondered, even casually, how death might feel? Is it like an animal's hibernation or will we simply feel like we're asleep?

"Were he not gone, The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep."

Posted by: Matt Hampton at January 26, 2006 12:02 AM

I thought this poem was very interesting, the person that built a wall was very shy and was living in his past, and in the shadows. The other person was trying to see why he was living like this by asking a bunch of questions.

Posted by: Shawn Schoolden at January 26, 2006 10:31 AM

The poem apple picking, I belive, is about events leaving their mark in a person's life. Every event you have ever been through leaves a mark somehow on you're life whether it be physcial or pyschological. Frost talks about how he can still feel like ache of where the step of the ladder had been under his foot. That event in his life left a physical mark.

Posted by: Maren Masur at January 26, 2006 10:32 AM

The Mending Wall... The main thing that stands out to me about this poem is in the lines:
"He is all pne and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across"
To me this is saying how even though he doesnt want to come out and tell his neighbor what he sees he doesnt think that his neighbor will gain the insight at all let alone on his own. Its portraying frustration and defeat to me. I get the feeling that the speaker has accepted the fact that his neighbor will always want the wall there.

Posted by: Kaylee North at January 26, 2006 10:32 AM

"And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall..."

In this poem Frost is using sensory imagry to evoke personal emotion. He used the word "cherish" to mean an important event or memory that has been brought back by the sound, feel, and smell of the apples. Usually apple picking is eserved for the Spring and Summer months. Spring and summer have a kind of light, free feeling to them. This poem, to me, is a simple memory brought back by a nostaglic event that occured in the speaker's life.

Posted by: Laura Schafer at January 26, 2006 10:33 AM

I feel that throughout this entire poem, he is comparing apple picking to his life situations. "The woodchuck could stay whether it's like his long sleep, as I describing it's coming on, Or just some human sleep". I feel that this line is stating how much we take for granted the grueling pain and tiring affect that physical labor has on us.

Posted by: Sarah Lodzsun at January 26, 2006 11:57 AM

"Good fences make good neighbors."

I like this part of the poem because I think that is has much truth. I think that having a separation between objects keeps the peace. However, I must admit that I really do not understand this poem. I have read it almost 6 times and still do not understand.

Posted by: Onilee Smith at January 29, 2006 08:48 PM

Onilee, the speaker of the poem actually disagrees with the statement you quoted, which is the antithesis to the poem's main message -- that is, the whole poem exists in order to give a point of view that challenges the idea that neighbors need fences. According to the poet, "Something there is that doesn't love a wall." While the poet can't quite articulate what that thing is that doesn't love the wall, he notes that the forces of nature try to tear it down, yet the humans dutifully build it back up.

Can you give some lines or words that are puzzling you, Onilee? Maybe I or someone else in the class can help.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 29, 2006 10:00 PM

"Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or what I was walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense."

This quote from Mending Wall, makes me feel like the main character in this poem wants to help his neighbor repair their wall between properties in hopes that he will find out why the wall needs repaired year after year. The main character looks at this time of year as a possible chance for answers on why, "Good fences make good neighbors." Is it something that the main character had done in the past that offended the neighbor and this is why the wall continues to be repaired? Is it because the neighbor enjoys extreme privacy? Is it because the neighbor feels more secure and safe with the walls protection? But protection from what or whom? The main character looks toward the spring mending time in hopes that as they mend the wall yet again more questions about this process will be discovered.

Posted by: Terra Stumpf at January 30, 2006 03:10 PM

After Apple Picking

I can tell from the underlying messages in this poem that the speaker is identifying his apple picking work with his overall life. This makes me believe that the speaker is of an o older age and looking back on all he has done or has not. It seems that he uses the lines
"And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now."
to refer to things that he did not get the chance to do or take the chance to do within his life but it is too late now because he's aged and tired. This poem was much more difficult to interpret to me than Mending Wall.

Posted by: Terra Stumpf at January 30, 2006 03:18 PM

A sublevel story within After Apple Picking is, without question, sexually oriented and laced with lust. A website that sets forth the sexual side of After Apple Picking is located at:

Posted by: J.T. Best at May 19, 2006 01:37 AM
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