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“Out, Out—” by Robert Frost

Robert Frost’s poem “Out, Out—” (1916) is a single stanza poem describing the accidental death of a young boy who cuts his hand off when sawing wood. The poem has powerful imagery and rhythmical structure that creates a vivid picture of the accident. When describing the scene, the author uses the words that sound like the buzzing of the saw: “And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled” (Frost, 2017, p. 586). The repetition and rhythm establish a threatening, ominous tone, which is intensified by the description of the landscape: “Five mountain ranges one behind the other / Under the sunset far into Vermont” (Frost, 2017, p. 586). The nature is idyllic but distant and cold, and the boy is alone with the noisy buzzsaw, tired of his grown-up duties.

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The title of the poem is a reference to Shakespeare’s play Macbeth that alludes to Macbeth’s soliloquy after the death of his wife, where he comments on the brevity of life. The author uses the citation to better express his feelings about the death of his character and reflects on the unpredictability of life. The boy, young and innocent, dies as the result of the tragic accident, but his childhood has already been lost. He is described as “…big boy / Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart” (Frost, 2017, p. 586), and the poem can be viewed as a commentary on the issue of child labor that deprives children of their childhood. By contrasting the idyllic description of the landscape with the tragic events of the poem, Frost reflects on the subject of human helplessness in an indifferent universe. Overall, the poem creates a powerful image of death and can be regarded as a masterful reflection on the fragility of life.

Reference

Frost, R. (2017). Out, out—. In L. Kirszner & S. Mandell (Eds.), Portable literature: Reading, reacting, writing, 9th ed. (pp. 596–597). Cengage Learning.

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