Document Type



"The Barry S. Cohen Prize Paper."


“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” something there is fundamental in human nature and the American ideal, something there is at odds with rigid separation between neighbors. And yet something there is that compels neighbors to continue erecting fences and walls. In Robert Frost’s Mending Wall, nature rises up against the division wall built by the neighbors the year before, “frozen-ground-swell … spill[ing] the upper boulders in the sun,” but the fence-menders pretend their efforts might conquer the forces of gravity and wind. In unspoken agreement, they appeal to magical spells as they balance boulders in wall-form, briefly preventing them from tumbling back into their natural state of repose. “Good fences make good neighbours” the neighbor repeats without requiring practical reasons for the fence or considering costs of maintaining the boundary wall. “Something there is…that wants [the wall] down,” the narrator contemplates pointing out, yet says nothing and continues mending.

Date of Authorship for this Version

May 2008