Paraphrase "Out, Out" by Robert Frost.

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The poem “Out, Out—“ by Robert Frost was based on an actual incident in Frost’s life. In April 1915, a neighbor and friend of the Frost family lost his hand to a buzz saw, and he bled so profusely that he died of heart failure. 

Title of poem

The title of the poem is an allusion to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. When Macbeth learns about Lady Macbeth’s death, Macbeth speaks:

Out, out brief candle!

Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,

And then is heard no more.

In Macbeth’s soliloquy, he compares life to a candle. Sometimes the candle goes out too soon, and the person never really has the opportunity to experience life.  Macbeth also compared life to being an actor on the stage who is sometimes proud and often worried.  


The narration of the poem is first person.  As the poem progresses, the events are interpreted by the narrator. 


The poem is divided into two parts: Section 1-lines 1-14; Section 2-lines 14-the end. The poem is written in free verse. 

It is both an auditory and visual experience to read the poem.  The poet employs personification with the buzz saw seeming to be alive and leaping at the boy’s hand.  Another device that is used is onomatopoeia for the sounds of the saw as the boy cuts the wood.


Section 1

The main character is a young boy who is cutting wood using a dangerous buzz saw.  The saw makes odd noises as it goes through the pieces of wood, which drop to the ground sized for the wood stove.  The wood smells good. If a person were to look around the scene, he would encounter the beauty of  Vermont and the five mountains.  

The saw continues running and making its odd sounds.  The day was almost over.  In fact, call it a day’s work. 

The narrator wishes that the boy could have stopped  a half-hour early so that he could do what boys like to do.

As usual, the boy’s sister comes out to tell the workers that it is suppertime.

Section 2

When the boy hears the sister, the saw acted as though it knew what the sister had said.  It jumped out at the boy’s hand or seemed to—

The boy must not have been paying attention and put his hand into the saw. It does not make any difference because the saw and the boy’s hand met.

At first the boy let out a kind of remorseful laugh as he turned toward the others showing them his hand.  He wanted help, and he knew the blood had to stop or he might lose his life.

When the boy actually looked at his hand, he knew that he might lose it—

Sadly, this little boy had been doing an adult job. He was too small to be using such a dangerous piece of equipment.

Then he cried out to his sister, begging her to not let them take off his hand.

So…The hand was already lost.  To fix this wound, the doctor gave him anesthetic: ether. The nurse watched the boy and saw that he was having trouble breathing.    Slowly, the boy’s breathing lessened.

And then—the watcher at his pulse took fright.

No one believed. They listened at his heart.

Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it.

 The boy died. This boy will never grow up.   

Life goes on. Since the people who were a part of his life could do nothing, they went on with their lives.


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