Tone: “Out, Out” By Robert Frost
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In the poem, “Out-Out” by Robert Frost; the speaker has a somber, serious, regretful attitude, an ironic tone, and a vivid descriptive voice towards the events occurring throughout the poem. He (the speaker) is shown as a witness to the story that takes place. Frost uses this dramatic take on a chain of events to guide you through a series of emotions as the poem develops.
The first thing I noticed in reading the poem was the calm and serene atmosphere that the speaker was describing. “The buzz saw snarled and rattled” in the first line depicts ferocity as if he was trying to foreshadow the saw’s role in the poem. The speaker goes on to describe a nostalgic, happy scene in the country, on a homestead in the mountains of Vermont. He creates this mood by using words and phrases such as “sweet-scented stuff” and “breeze drew across it”. “Five mountain ranges….” and “Under the sunset far into Vermont” depicts the location as in the wilderness up in the mountains of Vermont at dusk, where he (the speaker) and the boy were about to call it a day.
He appears to be laboring along side the boy, chopping wood in their yard, just before the boy’s sister calls out to them “supper”. This implies that the speaker has a close relationship with the other characters in the poem, hinting that he is in fact the boy’s father. Describing the boy as a “big boy, doing a man’s work although child at heart” and talk of pleasing him by giving him the half hour off work that he enjoys further implies that the speaker knows the boy well and has a close relationship to him.
The poem grows more somber as the speaker starts to reveal a feeling of regret. The phrase “Call it a day, I wish they would have said… to please the boy by giving him the half hour that a boy counts so much when saved from work” depicts strong emotion of regret, because if they had ended work a half hour earlier then the boy may not have died. It creates a sense of irony in the turn of events because the boy’s sister comes outside to call him and the speaker in for supper, and in doing this distracts the boy from his saw which cuts off his hand and actually ends up killing him.
The speaker uses suspense to describe what happens next with words such as the saw “leaped out of the boy’s hand”, “swung toward them”, and “his first outcry was a rueful laugh”. This touches on the frailty of life. The speaker through telling this story makes you think about how fragile everyone’s life really is and can be taken away at the most unexpected moment.
In reading further, the poem gets more chaotic and frightening. The speaker uses exclamation points at the end of dialogue and short, sharp sentences that put you on the edge of your seat. You see that it was a shock to “Them”- the boy’s family. “The watcher at his pulse took fright” as they just start to realize that the boy is dying from his accident. “No one believed” and the realization starts to sink in. “They listened to his heart. Little-less-nothing- and that ended it.” The speaker is portraying the family’s shock and disbelief at the boy’s death. They took his pulse, and then listened to his heart as if to make sure of what was truly happening.
A very important part of the poem lies in its ending. After “and that ended it”, a conclusion to the boy’s deadly fiasco, the speaker adds “No more to build on there. And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs”. This depicts a certain amount of apathy that the boy’s family has towards his death. The speaker tells you that, yes life is fragile and can come to an end at any moment, but ends the poem by saying that the world doesn’t stop. Even when people close to you die, life goes on and you keep going. The speaker and the boy’s sister had a close relationship to the boy as family and were shocked and horrified at his death, but they kept on living life and “turned to their affairs”.
I think that the speaker’s main idea he tries to express through his depiction of emotion and events is that life is a very delicate thing; it can end at the least expected and most ironic moments. However, the world keeps progressing forward and life moves on, so you just keep living despite your loss, however tragic it may be.