Meyer uses a formalist strategy on his critical essay of Mending Wall. He states that Mending Wall is a narrative poem and is comprised of ten main points. They are a beginning, a middle an end, observation, compression of time, containment, illumination of private gestures, understatement, humor, setting, characters, and a compelling subject. These points are known as “The Reaper test” and according to Bruce Meyer, Robert Frosts’s Mending Wall passes with flying colors. The poem is based on a wall which is falling apart because of a harsh winter.
This wall separates two farms from one another, one farm being an apple orchard and the other a pine field. The separation of the two farms also reflects on the characters in which they represent. Frost represents the apple orchard which if full of life and the other man represents a pine field which is uninteresting. The two men come together during the spring time to re-build the broken wall. Frost attempts to make conversation with his neighbor but his neighbor is boring and uninterested in talking or playing or joking with Frost.
What’s interesting about this poem is it’s a narrative that’s based on “a single time and a single place, and the actions could, plausibly, take place within the “real time” of the poem. This may appear to contradict the nature of narrative: after all, a narrative is, by definition, a sequence of connected events that form a single concept or story (Meyer 2). Frost does such an excellent job of compressing time and setting that he makes it seem like a sequence of events but it’s really just fragments of idea and “gestures” (Meyer 2) “…that form a single concept or story” (Meyer 2).