“Out, Out–” by Robert Frost is a poem about a young boy who dies as a result of cutting his hand using a saw. In order to give the reader a clear picture of this bizarre scenario, Frost utilizes imagery, personification, blank verse, and variation in sentence length to display various feelings and perceptions throughout the poem. Frost also makes a reference to Macbeth’s speech in the play by Shakespear called Macbeth which is somewhat parallel to the occurrences in “Out, Out-.”
Frost begins the poem by describing a young boy cutting some wood using a “buzz-saw.” The setting is Vermont and the time is late afternoon. The sun is setting and the boy’s sister calls he and the other workers to come for “Supper.” As the boy hears its dinnertime, he gets excited and cuts his hand on accident. Immediately realizing that the doctor might amputate his hand, he asks his sister to make sure that it does not happen. By the time the doctor arrives, it is too late and the boy’s hand is already lost. When the doctor gives him anaesthetic, he falls asleep and never wakes up again. The last sentence of the poem, “since they (the boys family and the doctor) were not the one dead, turned to their affairs” shows how although the boys death is tragic, people move on with their life in a way conveying the idea that people only care for themselves.
Frost uses different stylistic devices throughout this poem. He is very descriptive using things such as imagery and personification to express his intentions in the poem. Frost uses imagery when he describes the setting of the place. He tells his readers the boy is standing outside by describing the visible mountain ranges and sets the time of day by saying that the sun is setting. Frost gives his readers an image of the boy feeling pain by using contradicting words such as “rueful” and “laugh” and by using powerful words such as “outcry”. He also describes the blood coming from the boy’s hand as life that is spilling. To show how the boy is dying, Frost gives his readers an image of the boy breathing shallowly by saying that he is puffing his lips out with his breath.
When talking about the saw, Frost uses personification and repetition. Personification is seen when he says that at times it can run light and at others it has to “bear a load”, talking as if the saw was a person which had to carry something. Repetition is used to help build an image of the saw’s movements where the words “snarled and rattled” are repeated several times throughout the poem to display an image of the saw moving back and forth. Frost’s variation in the lengths of his sentences almost reflect the boy’s life for when the boy is still alive and healthy, the lengths of Frost’s sentences are much longer then they are when the boy is dying.
The poem’s title, “Out, Out-” is taken from the Shakespeare play Macbeth where the main character, Macbeth, speaks after he is told that his wife is dead. Using a simile to compare Lady Macbeth’s death to a candle which is blown out he says “Out, out, brief candle!” Both Lady Macbeth’s death and the death of the young boy from Frost’s poem are tragedies. They are both about people who’s lives come to an end before it is their time to die, before they’ve lived a long life and aged to die a natural death. Comparing them to a candle is suitable because just like a candle’s light can go in a matter of seconds caused by a simple blow, their lives ended in a matter of seconds. A candle that leaves darkness once it is not shining any longer, can be compared to the darkness left in the hearts of the families of Lady Macbeth and of the boy after their death.
Saying “brief candle” clearly compares to the boy, who dies before he even gets the chance to reach manhood. Another comparison that can be made between Lady Macbeth and the boy, is the way that after their deaths, their surroundings move on and go back to their regular routine. In Macbeth, Macbeth continues his fight for the kingdom, and in “Out, Out-” the doctor and the boy’s family get back to their affairs. This helps prove Macbeth’s words when he says “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player; That struts and frets his hour upon the stage; And then is heard no more: it is a tale; Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury; Signifying nothing.”, because he is saying that life is brief and meaningless. The boy’s quick death shows how life can be short and the way in which everyone got back to their own businesses shows how life is meaningless, how when one is gone it does not make that much of a difference. Its Frost’s style of writing that makes his readers feel as if they are part of the poem. Its almost as if the events in the poem are really taking place and the readers are merely people who are standing by and watching it all. It is his writing which allows him to make an allusion between the story of a tragic boy and the story of a tragic hero. It is his writing which makes his poems so unique.