How can I compare the theme of loss in "Out Out" by Robert Frost and "Disabled" by Wilfred Owen?

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Both Wilfred Owen's "Disabled" and Robert Frost's "Out, Out--" are poems about the loss of life as it has been. While the boy in Frost's poem completely loses his life, Owen's young man loses his former way of life.

1. Loss of physical ability or death 

When the chainsaw slips in the boy's hand, Frost writes that the saw "seemed to leap" and nearly sever his hand: "He must have given the hand." There is the sense of surrender to the cruelty of chance in the boy's actions, although he seems to hope his hand can be saved when he "saw all." He begs, "Don't let him cut my hand off--" because he fears if he loses his hand, then he can no longer do a man's work as he is accustomed to doing. Of course, the tragic result of this accident is unknown to the boy, whose fate is worse than he fears.

This loss of physical ability with the amputation of his legs is also crucial to the soldier in Owens's poem "Disabled." Confined to a wheelchair, the young man who was once a soldier perceives himself as only half a man. With the loss of his legs, he is dependent upon others and "must take whatever pity they may dole." Moreover, he notices how women do not look at him, but "[P]assed from him to the strong men that were whole."

Further, the ex-soldier knows that he will go to a veterans' hospital and just "take whatever pity" is given to him. Much like the boy's fears of losing his hand, a condition which would handicap him, the veteran has fears of his loss of independence. Now he must worry, "Why don't they come/And put him into bed?" because he is no longer independent as he once was "in the old times before he threw away his knees."

2. Loss of family/social contact

When he realizes that his hand is destroyed, the boy of Frost's poem perceives that "all [was] spoiled." At this point the boy only believes that he will no longer be able to use his hand, and, therefore, he will not be able to hold his own in the world of woodsmen, nor will he be able to cut wood for his family. Instead, the others, who "were not the one dead," "turned to their affairs" and go about their work after the boy dies just as they would if he were to live.

In "Disabled," the now handicapped soldier hears the voices of boys that "rang saddening like a hymn," or a song for the dead. He can no longer participate in much of life; instead, he can only listen to the "voices of play and pleasure" in which he once participated.

3. Loss of hope for the future

In the poem "Out, Out--" Frost writes that the boy "saw all spoiled." The boy realizes that even if his hand is not amputated, he will no longer be able to hold the chainsaw or do the other tasks of a man. In his environment of the North Woods, the boy will become alienated from others without being able to participate, and he will have little future because the men all need to work.

Likewise, the veteran who "sat in a wheeled chair waiting for dark and shivered in his ghastly suit of grey" is ruined, too, and is cast aside and "will spend a few sick years in Institutes."

4. Loss of innocence through harsh experience

Both the boy of Frost's poem and the amputee veteran of Owens's poem have lost their innocence as well as their optimistic perspectives on life. Certainly, each has felt that there was much life ahead of him; however, they are both tragically made aware that a person holds onto life with but a gossamer thread.

The boy of Frost's poem has cherished the free time "a boy counts so much when saved from work"; however, once he is severely injured, the boy can no longer play at any game. Similarly, the disabled soldier realizes that he will have no more youth--"Now he is old; his back will never brace"--because he has been aged by becoming disabled and crippled as an old man would be. 

5. Loss of relationship with the natural world

Both the boy and the veteran have lost their relationships with the natural world; no longer can the boy work as a man or play outdoors. Certainly, the young soldier whose legs are gone cannot march or hike or engage in many activities outdoors or even in society. He is only to be pitied because

...half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race,
And leap or purple spurted from his thigh...

6. Loss of physical and psychological freedom

Threatened with the loss of his hand, a body part that is so essential, the boy panics, crying out to his sister, "Don't let him, sister!" as he begs her to prevent the doctor from amputating his hand. Surely the boy considers how limited he would be in all aspects of his life without one hand.

Faced with the loss of his legs, the young soldier of Owens's poem recalls how the crowds reacted differently toward him when he returned, and only "a solemn man" thanked him for his sacrifice for him and others in America. "Now he will spend a few sick years in Institutes," and he believes his life will be so much less than it could have been; he will always feel isolated and unfulfilled.

7. The structure of the two poems

There is a singleness to the poem "Out, Out--" because of its one-stanza construction. This single stanza reflects the swiftness of the boy's accident and fate as well as the isolation of the unfortunate incident. Without a rhyme scheme, the verse also moves more quickly than if it were divided into stanzas and had rhyming end words that would separate ideas.

On the other hand, Owens's "Disabled" is divided into six stanzas with alternating lines that rhyme with each other, although this pattern is sometimes broken. The stanzas are not uniform in the number of lines that each has, either. So, the speed is broken as in stanza 5, a short, slow stanza to give the reader time to ponder the tragic effects of the soldier's return as an incomplete man.

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