'Out, Out' by Robert Frost
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Mountain Interval1916The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them "Supper." At that word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap --
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy's first outcry was a rueful laugh,
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all --
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man's work, though a child at heart --
He saw all spoiled. "Don't let him cut my hand off --
The doctor, when he comes. Don't let him, sister!"
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then - the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little -- less -- nothing! -- and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.
Editor 1 Interpretation
"Out, Out" by Robert Frost: A Deep Dive into Life, Death, and Ambiguity
"Out, Out" by Robert Frost is a poem that tells the story of a boy who dies from a saw accident while working in a farm. It's a haunting narrative that explores the themes of mortality, fragility, and the transience of life. But beyond its surface-level reading, "Out, Out" is a deeply ambiguous and complex piece of literature that invites multiple interpretations and layers of meaning. In this 4000-word literary criticism, we will explore the nuances of Frost's poem, dissect its structure, and unravel its symbolism to uncover the underlying messages that lie beneath the surface.
The Narrative Structure: From Life to Death
The poem opens with a serene and idyllic description of a New England farm, where the boy is working with his family to cut wood. The tone is peaceful and pastoral, and the reader can almost smell the scent of the sawdust and hear the sound of the saw buzzing. But this tranquility is soon interrupted by the boy's accident, and the narrative shifts from blissful to tragic. The suddenness of the event is captured in the short, choppy sentences that follow:
And nothing happened: day was all but done. The boy's first outcry was a rueful laugh, As he swung toward them holding up the hand Half in appeal, but half as if to keep The life from spilling.
The boy's "rueful laugh" is a poignant reminder of the fleetingness of life and the absurdity of human existence. In the face of death, all we can do is to laugh or cry, to accept or reject our fate. The boy's hand, which is "half in appeal, but half as if to keep / The life from spilling," is a powerful metaphor for the fragility of the human body and the struggle to hold onto life. The image of life as a precious liquid that can spill out of our bodies at any moment is both beautiful and tragic.
The rest of the poem is a gradual descent from life to death. The boy is taken to a doctor, who tries to save him but fails. The boy's sister, who witnesses the accident, cries out for him to stay alive, but her plea is in vain. The boy's last words, "Don't let him cut my hand off— / The doctor, when he comes. / Don't let him, sister!" are a heartbreaking reminder of his youth and innocence, and a powerful critique of the harsh realities of life. The ending, which describes the boy's body as "lifeless" and the saw as "snarling and rattling," leaves the reader with a sense of emptiness and despair.
The Ambiguity of "Out, Out"
One of the most fascinating aspects of "Out, Out" is its ambiguity. The poem is full of contradictions and paradoxes that make it difficult to pin down its meaning. For example, the poem begins with a beautiful description of nature, but it ends with a gruesome depiction of death. The saw, which is initially portrayed as a harmless tool, becomes a menacing and murderous object. The boy's "rueful laugh" can be interpreted as either a tragic or comic response to his fate. The doctor's attempt to save the boy's life can be seen as either heroic or futile. Even the title of the poem, "Out, Out," is open to interpretation. Is it a reference to the boy's dying breath? Or is it a metaphor for the fleetingness of life?
One way to interpret the ambiguity of "Out, Out" is to see it as a reflection of the complexity of life itself. Life is full of contradictions and paradoxes, and death is often sudden and unpredictable. The poem captures this uncertainty and randomness by presenting the reader with multiple perspectives and interpretations. Another way to interpret the ambiguity of "Out, Out" is to see it as a critique of the human desire for order and clarity. We want to make sense of the world and impose meaning on it, but sometimes life defies our attempts at rationalization.
The Symbolism of "Out, Out"
Another layer of meaning in "Out, Out" comes from the poem's use of symbolism. Frost employs a variety of symbols that add depth and richness to the narrative.
One of the most prominent symbols in the poem is the saw. At the beginning of the poem, the saw is described as a "buzz-saw" that "snarled and rattled" through the wood. This description suggests that the saw is a powerful and dangerous tool that has the potential to cause harm. However, the saw is also described as a "boy's tool" that the boy was using to "make wood," which suggests that it is also a symbol of the boy's innocence and youth. The way the saw transforms from a harmless tool to a lethal weapon is a powerful metaphor for the way that life can suddenly turn on us and become a threat to our existence.
Another symbol in the poem is the boy's sister. She is described as "young" and "ten years old," which emphasizes her vulnerability and innocence. Her presence in the poem serves to underscore the tragedy of the boy's death and to highlight the cyclical nature of life. The fact that she witnesses her brother's death is a powerful metaphor for the way that death is an inevitable part of life, and that we must all confront it at some point.
The doctor in the poem is also a symbol. He represents the human desire to control and order the world. His attempt to save the boy's life is a testament to the power of human ingenuity and the impulse to overcome adversity. However, his failure to save the boy's life is a reminder of the limitations of human power and the inevitability of death.
Conclusion: Life, Death, and the Human Experience
"Out, Out" is a poem that explores the themes of life, death, and the human experience in a powerful and poignant way. Frost's use of narrative structure, ambiguity, and symbolism creates a complex and multifaceted portrait of a young boy's tragic death. Through the poem, we are reminded of the fragility of life, the randomness of death, and the inevitability of the human experience. While the poem is a haunting reminder of the transience of life, it is also a celebration of the beauty and wonder of existence. As we navigate our own lives and confront the challenges and joys that come with it, "Out, Out" serves as a powerful reminder of the preciousness of life and the importance of cherishing every moment.
Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation
Poetry Out, Out: An Analysis of Robert Frost's Classic Poem
Robert Frost's poem "Out, Out" is a haunting and powerful work that explores the fragility of life and the suddenness of death. Written in 1916, the poem tells the story of a young boy who is killed while working with a buzz saw. Through vivid imagery and a powerful narrative, Frost captures the tragedy of the boy's death and the impact it has on those around him.
The poem begins with a description of the boy at work, cutting wood with a buzz saw. The opening lines are deceptively peaceful, with the boy "doing a man's work" and the saw "snarling and rattling" in the background. However, the tone quickly shifts as the saw suddenly "leaped out at the boy's hand" and "snarled and rattled" even louder. The violence of the saw is juxtaposed with the boy's innocence and vulnerability, as he is described as "a child at heart" and "too young to know much."
The suddenness of the boy's death is emphasized by the way in which it is described. Frost uses short, choppy sentences to convey the speed and brutality of the accident. The boy's hand is "snatched" by the saw, and he cries out for his sister to "call it a day." The phrase "call it a day" is particularly poignant, as it suggests that the boy is aware that his life is over and that there is nothing more to be done.
The second half of the poem focuses on the reactions of those around the boy to his death. Frost describes the "five mountain ranges" of the boy's family and the "neighbors from the valley" who come to see what has happened. The use of the word "mountain" suggests the weight of grief that the family is feeling, while the "neighbors from the valley" represent the wider community and the impact that the boy's death has on them.
The final lines of the poem are perhaps the most powerful. Frost describes the sun setting over the mountains, and the sound of the saw fading away. The image of the sun setting suggests the end of the boy's life, while the fading sound of the saw represents the passing of time and the inevitability of death. The final line, "And they, since they / Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs," is a stark reminder of the way in which life goes on, even in the face of tragedy.
One of the most striking aspects of "Out, Out" is the way in which Frost uses language to convey the emotions of the characters. The saw is described as "snarling" and "rattling," while the boy's cries are "leaping" and "snatching." These words create a sense of urgency and violence, and convey the horror of the accident. Similarly, the use of the phrase "call it a day" is a powerful way of conveying the boy's acceptance of his own death.
Another important aspect of the poem is the way in which it explores the theme of mortality. Frost uses the image of the saw to represent the inevitability of death, and the suddenness with which it can strike. The boy's youth and innocence are contrasted with the violence of the saw, creating a sense of tragedy and loss. The final lines of the poem, with their emphasis on the passing of time and the continuation of life, are a reminder that death is a part of the natural order of things.
In conclusion, Robert Frost's "Out, Out" is a powerful and haunting poem that explores the fragility of life and the suddenness of death. Through vivid imagery and a powerful narrative, Frost captures the tragedy of the boy's death and the impact it has on those around him. The poem is a reminder that life is precious and fleeting, and that we should cherish every moment we have.
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