Death of the Hired Man

by Robert Frost
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After reading "Death of the Hired Man," what have you learned about the lives of farmers?

This student has summarized the story well, but the first paragraph is needlessly confusing. The first sentence seems to suggest that the poem was written early in the twentieth century, but then he says that Frost wrote it mid-twentieth century. I'm not sure what he means by "back when Frost wrote (the poem)." It's fine to say that it was written in the early or mid-twentieth century, but be specific about which part of the twentieth century you mean.

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Frost's poem "The Death of the Hired Man" brings up many different perspectives through the lives of the characters therein. There's the farmer and his wife, the old man and the young man. Life in farming is competitive, lonely, expensive and not lucritive. It's also tough on a person's body because it demands intense physical labor that will wear someone out early. And back when Frost wrote the poem (early to mid twentieth century) farmers had machinery, but none of the technology or higher forms of machinery that farmers have today. But the most interesting thing about this poem has to be why the old man returns to a farm that he left for another farmer's pay. Migrant farmers worked wherever they could find the highest paying farmer. As a result, they led lives of solitude with no real place to call home. The farmer and his wife discuss the topic of what home really is since the old man arrives at their home to die; but, as far as having learned something, it seems that the loneliness and competitiveness of farming is the most insightful.

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Life of a farmer seems slower than the fast-paced world of business. They also have to deal with many different people coming to work for them throughout the year. This poem talks about an old man named Silas who comes back to a former employer at the end of his life and the farmer and his wife talk about his life and their memories of him. Through their conversation about Silas, the reader discovers that the farm-hand didn't think too highly of himself because he didn't have an education; he even tried to convince a younger man by the name of Harold Wilson not to go to college because he felt working on a farm was how a man could really contribute to life. From Warren's perspective, the farmer, we see his frustration with employees like Silas who came in and out of their lives each season and were easily coaxed into working for someone else for just a little bit more money; not enough money that he would consider worth trading loyalty for. The life of these farmers also revolved around themes of the definitions of family, home, and respect for a dying man. A great quote abou home came from Warren's wife Mary who said, "Home is the place where, when you have to go there,/ They have to take you in."

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