Compare and contrast the themes of Robert Frost's "Out, Out—" and W. H. Auden's "Musée des Beaux Arts." How are they similar and different? Use significant words, details, and images from the poems to support your answer.

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Both Robert Frost's "Out, Out—" and W. H. Auden's "Musée des Beaux Arts" deal with the theme of death; specifically that death, from a broad perspective, is simply a part of the way the world goes.

In "Out, Out—", Frost tells the story of a boy who, at the end of a work day, gets his hand caught in a buzz saw and dies as a result.

Throughout the poem, the narrator focuses on the sensory details of the scene, like the "sweet-scented" sawdust, the "sunset far into Vermont," and the way the buzz saw "snarled and rattled." When the narrator does share people's emotions, they're held at a distance. For instance, when the boy gets injured, he turns to the others in the yard with his arm up, "as if to keep the life from spilling." We're told he holds his hand up, but we're not told that "to keep the life from spilling" is his goal, only that his actions look "as if" it could be his goal.

Once the boy dies, the poem ends with one sentence: "And they, since they/Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs."

In "Musée des Beaux Arts," Auden describes Brughel's painting "The Fall of Icarus" in the second stanza to illustrate the narrator's musings about life and death in the first stanza.

The painting shows the Greek myth of Icarus at the moment when Icarus, having flown too close to the sun and melted his wax wings, meets his death by crashing into the sea. Rather than being the center of the image, however, Icarus is a tiny figure drowning in the corner; most of the painting is taken up by a pastoral scene featuring shepherds and other townspeople, none of whom even seem to realize Icarus is there.

The narrator in "Musée des Beaux Arts" has spent the first stanza musing on how suffering rarely takes front and center in human life; rather, even when someone is suffering the pangs of childbirth or death, "the dogs go on with their doggy life," children skate on ponds, and horses scratch themselves.

Likewise, in the second stanza, the narrator focuses on "how everything turns away/Quite leisurely from the disaster" depicted in Brueghel's painting. The narrator notes that while the ploughman seen in the painting may have heard Icarus crash into the water, "for him it was not an important failure."

Both poems focus on how the world goes on, even when someone dies. While death can be extremely portentous and meaningful to the person dying, for the rest of the universe, it means little or nothing. Others "are not the one dead," in Frost's words, and "the sun shone/As it had to," as Auden says.

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