Compare and contrast the subjects of Robert Frost’s "Out, Out—" and W. H. Auden's "Musée des Beaux Arts."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The two poems are alike in that each depicts the death of a young adolescent boy. In "Out, Out—", a "big boy" who is doing a "man's work" (although he is "a child at heart") loses a hand when his buzzsaw jumps out of his hands and cuts it off....

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

The two poems are alike in that each depicts the death of a young adolescent boy. In "Out, Out—", a "big boy" who is doing a "man's work" (although he is "a child at heart") loses a hand when his buzzsaw jumps out of his hands and cuts it off. This loss of a hand leads to his death.

In "Musee des Beaux Art," Icarus is given a pair of wings so that he can fly but is told not to go too near the sun. He soars too high anyway, the sun's heat melts his wings, and he plunges to his death in the sea.

In both poems, a tool that is supposed to give the boy in question greater power leads to his death. Further, in both poems, those who witness the deaths don't much care, quickly going back to their own lives. In "Out, Out—":

And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.
In "Musee," the ordinary people going about their daily jobs, as depicted in Breughel's painting, hardly notice Icarus' death:
The ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure ...

In both poems, a tragic event, the death of young person, is juxtaposed against the lack of feeling it excites.

The poems differ, however, in that Icarus is a famous figure in Greek mythology whose death symbolizes the temptation and danger of taking too many risks. Icarus could have chosen not to soar so high: his death is due to his own audacity.

The nameless boy in "Out, Out" is nothing but an ordinary young person who has to do work that is meant for an adult. His death comes not because he chose to do too much but because too much was imposed on him too soon.

There is something compelling in an impetus youth like Icarus daring to try to reach the sun. In contrast, the death of a boy who is given more than he can handle of drudge work he is expected to perform with a dangerous piece of equipment only leaves us with a sick, sour feeling.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team