Out, Out : by Robert Frost || Summary and Analysis

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Out, Out

The 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.

The 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.
Out, Out

Introduction:

      Out, Out, by Robert Frost, taken from Mountain Interval, is a tragedy of rural life gaining universal significance, for it reveals man's limitations and the necessity of reconciling with the inevitable. The depiction of countryside living in a tragic form illustrated in significant manner. 

Summary:

      The poem presents a gruesome incident. A boy accidentally cuts off his hand while taking away wood from a rotary saw. The people around do what they can - a doctor is called, an attempt is made to staunch the blood. But the boy dies. "And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs." The basic theme - the ironic symbolism of life suddenly and tragically cut off is clear in the lines: "Then the boy saw all.. He saw all spoiled." But there is no remedy, and life must go on; for there is no use in lamenting.

Critical Remarks:

      Out Out is a small poem of about thirty odd lines but to the sensitive reader it is a highly heart-rending poem where pathos is built up in the successive lines. The boy's accidental death is gruesome indeed but the implications thereof are more important. They project an ironic symbolism of a life that is ended tragically and suddenly as though a candle is snuffed out abruptly. The poet is not sentimental either. His blunt statement of facts has the terse power of justifying the melodramatic shock. It brings out well now the unforseen happens with apparently no meaning at all. The loss of the hand to the boy symbolises the loss of livelihood; on broader levels, it indicates loss of creativity and even man's essential humanity through mere mechanism. It indicates that anything less than completeness is as good as death.

      It would be easy to accuse the poet of being callous to pain, but that would be wrong. The attitude is one of calm and balance, stoic humanism in the face of death and suffering. In a way, the poem has a nightmarish quality of pointless cruelty, and reminds us of thrilling comment that Frost is a terrifying poet. There is great pathos and irony in the poem. If work had stopped half an hour before, the boy would have been saved. The sister's presence she had come to call the boy for supper adds to the poignancy. There seems to be some social criticism in that a boy is made to do a man's work.

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