How does Frost create a sense of horror in "Out Out"?

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The sense of horror starts with the setting of the poem. Frost carefully establishes the scenic and peaceful surroundings in which the action of the poem takes place. Amidst the aroma of the sawdust, overlooked by the mountains of Vermont, all was as it had been on many days previously. Life was following its normal pattern.

And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened

Because the boy had cut wood many times before and because of the sudden and unpredicted nature of the accident, the unexpected event becomes even more horrifying. Frost, however, uses completely unemotional, factual language to describe the boy's immediate reaction. "he swung toward them holding up the hand Half in appeal, but half as if to keep The life from spilling."

Possibly most horrifying of all is the detached manner in which the others on the scene react to the boy's death from this tragic accident. After witnessing the final breaths, "they, since they Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs."

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Sumaya Mazed | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) eNoter

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Robert Frost's poem "Out, Out--" is the story of a young boy "Doing a man's work, though a child at heart--" (l. 24); the boy is using a saw to cut wood.  Frost creates a sense of foreboding from the beginning by describing how the saw "snarled and rattled" in line 1 and repeats that phrase twice in line 7.  He follows those cacophonous words with "And nothing happened" in line 9, foreshadowing to the reader that "something" must happen later in the poem.

Frost also uses personification when describing the saw to add to that sense of horror. When the boy's sister comes to tell him that it is suppertime, "At the word, the saw, / As if to prove saws knew what supper meant, / Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap—" (ll. 14-16), cutting the boy's hand.  This personification indicates that the saw chose to cut the boy's hand instead of it being a tragic accident.  Added to the fact that it is a young boy instead of a man, the tragedy is even greater.  Frost emphasizes that tragedy at the end when the doctor is working to save his life: "They listened at his heart. / Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it" (ll. 31-32).  The use of the dashes adds to the anxiety of the reader who wants the boy to live.  But, in the end, there was "No more to build on there. And they, since they / Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs" (ll. 33-34).  The tragedy comes when no one even comments on the boy's death, but instead all turn to their affairs and continue as if nothing happened.

 

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