In "Out, Out - ," analyze how these narrative elements work to convey what you think is the poem’s main theme.

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The main theme of this poem is the fragility of life and the meaning of death, and this is conveyed through the narrative style of the poem.  It reads like a story and has many short story elements.  There is a main character:  a young teen who is working on the farm "a boy doing a man's work."  There is a setting:  a beautiful rural location with the mountains of Vermont in the background.  There is a situation:  the boy has been working and is almost done for the day when he is called to supper by his sister.  At that moment, he loses control of the chainsaw, and in a shocking moment, his hand is cut off.  His first reaction is an odd laugh, but he quickly realizes the severity of the situation.  He puts his arm up to help stop the flow of blood "life" as it is identified with a metonomy in the poem.  He begs his sister to not let the doctor cut off his hand -- a childish reaction -- especially in light of the fact that hand is already gone.  The fragility of life is shown in the fact that the boys dies right there in the yard as a result of this accident.  He is young and had his whole life ahead of him, but this freak accident ended it all in an instant.  The theme of the meaning of death is revealed in the final two lines.  These lines come as a shock to the reader -- perhaps more of a shock than the death itself because they state that everyone around the boy just returns "to their affairs" because there is "nothing more to grow on there."  The boy is dead and nothing is going to change that fact, but there are things that still need to be done for the day to day existence at this place.  The people there may have been sad, but that is never stated.  What the poem ends with is the oddly calm acceptance of the death.  The pace of the story builds the suspence from the foreshadowing of the menacing sound of the saw as it "snarled and rattled" in line one, through the quick death of the boy, but we are left unprepared for the conslusion, and yet, if the reader recognizes the allusion of the title from its source in Macbeth we can better understand Frost's point.  In that play, the main character, Macbeth, states that life is like a brief candle.  The exact quote is "Out, out  brief candle."  The candle, like the life of the boy, is fragile and the death of the candle and the boy is inevitable and permanent, which is what Frost is conveying in this narrative poem.

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