“Out, Out–” by Robert Frost is a poem about a young boy who dies as a result of cutting his hand using a saw. To describe this event Frost uses different stylistic including imagery, personification, repetition, iambic pentameter, blank verse and variation in sentence length. He also makes a reference to Macbeth’s speech in the Shakespearean play Macbeth.
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 him to come and eat supper. As the boy hears its dinner time he gets excited and cuts his hand by mistake. Realizing that the doctor might cut his hand off because of this, he immediately asks his sister to make sure that does not happen. By the time the doctor arrives it is too late and the hand is already lost. When the doctor gives him anaesthetic, the boy falls asleep never to wake up again. The last sentence of the poem which states that “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.
Frost uses different stylistic devices throughout his poem. He is very descriptive using things such as imagery and personification to express what he wants to say. Frost uses imagery when he describes the setting of the place – a boy sawing some wood. 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 contradiction 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. While Frost uses iambic pentameter for the rhythm, he uses blank verse for the rhyme. His variation in the lengths of his sentences almost reflects 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 Shakespearean 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 which 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 everyone got back to their businesses shows how life is meaningless, how when one is gone it does not make that much of a difference. Although it is clear to see that there is an allusion between the two pieces, it is not needed to read one in order to understand the other.
It is Frost’s style of writing that makes his readers feel as if they are part of the poem, as if the events in the poem are truly 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 poem so unique.