The poem published in 1916) is about a boy who has an accident in the woods. He accidentally cuts his hand and he begins to fear for his life. He does not want the hand to be removed. He eventually loses his life to the incident.
Robert Frost was an American poet, who was born on 26th March 1874. He grew up in San Francisco, but moved to Massachusetts after his father died of tuberculosis. Frost was inspired by many of the English poets, after going to England. He died in 1963. Frost understood New England, where the poem is set, as his grandfather had a farm there.
Frost was a father; however, sadly: Elliot died of Cholera; Carol committed suicide; Irma developed mental illness; Marjorie died after giving birth to her child and Elinor died in early infancy. Perhaps this explains the sadness of the child’s death in the poem.
‘The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard’
It is almost as though the saw is an animal, or creature that will devour the boy. The creature ‘snarled’ showing how angry and vicious the saw might be. It is almost as though the saw is another character in the story, ‘and nothing happened: day was all but done.’ It eventually ‘Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap,’ showing almost a determination to do harm.
Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound. If the alliteration begins with an ‘s’, then this is called sibilance. There are two types of sound: hard sounds (plosives) or soft sounds. It is extremely important to consider which sort of sound is being repeated, as this will determine the impact.
‘Sweet-scented stuff’ has a soft ambience and directly contrasts to the harsh events that will unfold.
Foreshadowing is the clues that are provided within a story, poem or play of the events that will unfold. It is used by the author to create a sense of tension or looming danger.
Throughout the fist half of the poem, there are repetitive mentions of endings, with the ‘sunset’, ‘day was all but done’ and ‘supper’. The ‘supper’ could be a religious reference to the Last Supper, which was eaten before Jesus’ death. It could reflect the innocence and purity of the young child.
‘The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh’
The first response of the child is to laugh, which can often occur in times of fear and uncertainty. There is a naivety at this point of the child that quickly disappears.
‘holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling’
By this stage of the poem, ‘blood’ is no longer mentioned. Instead, it is replaced with ‘life’, showing the severity of the incident. The reader now understands that the ‘child’ could die from the accident. The ‘boy’ has suddenly become a ‘child’ and the modern day audience are not accustomed to such harsh conditions. It would be unusual for a young child to be allowed near a saw.
Rhyme Scheme and Blank Verse
The poem is written almost as a story. It contains no stanzas (paragraph) and it has very little rhyme. It could be suggested that this emphasises the shocking nature of the incident that occurs.
By the final lines, there is a complete emotional detachment from the incident:
‘No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.’
It is almost as though the narrator is indifferent to the incident, which is shocking, as the boy has died.
Within the exam, you will be asked to compare one text to another of your choice. Here are 3 example essays that you could practice. You must consider the use of language and structure in your answer:
Compare the sense of loss in ‘Out Out’ to another text of your choice.
Compare the sense of helplessness in ‘Out Out’ to another text of your choice.
How is youth presented in ‘Out Out’? Compare it to a text of your choice.
- How is loss presented in ‘Out Out’?
- What is foreshadowing and how is it presented in ‘Out Out’?
- What is the structure of ‘Out Out’?