How is the name "Out Out -" in the poem by Robert Frost relevant?In what way does the name relate to the poem?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The title of the poem is an allusion to a passage in Shakespeare's "Macbeth" which reads,

"Out, out, brief candle!  Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.  It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing" (V,v,23-28).

In this famous soliloquy, Macbeth, who has just learned of his wife's death, laments the brevity of life and the meaningless finality of death.

In Frost's poem, the main character is a young boy who is pushed into adult responsibilites before he is ready.  He is doing dangerous work, cutting wood with a buzz saw, and is involved in a terrible accident in which his hand is severed and he dies.  The boy's life is cut short, snuffed out like a candle, but in a biting commentary on the nature of humankind, life for everyone else goes on as normal:

"Little, less, nothing! - and that ended it.  No more to build on there.  And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs" (lines 30-32).

Frost's chillingly callous ending underscores the realization expressed also by Macbeth, that life is too soon over, and devoid of significance once it is done.

engtchr5 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this title, Frost tips his poetic hat to Shakespeare's line: "Out, out damn spot!" It also is relevant to the content of the poem, as it has application to the topic addressed in its lines.

xblackstonex | Student

“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow 
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day 
To the last syllable of recorded time. 
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools 
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle. 
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player 
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, 
And then is heard no more. It is a tale 
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, 
Signifying nothing.”

  1. The ‘Out, out...’ speech given by Macbeth happens just after his wife, Lady Macbeth committed suicide. He seems to understand the significance of life in a clearer way now that his beloved wife has died.
  2. “Brief candle” is symbolizing life, its fragility and how quickly it goes by.
  3. His soliloquy speaks of the insignificance of life and how easily it can be taken away.
  4. Frost entitled this poem “Out, out...” to show how easily life can be cut off and how insignificant it can be. He said in the poem:
“they listened to his heart
little – less – nothing! - and that ended it.”

This is symbolic of how quickly and easily the boy died without the doctor or the family being able to change the boy’s fate- the fragility of life. And also, Frost said:

“...And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs”

Showing the insignificance of life and how one death will not affect the world, rather the world will keep going like nothing ever had happened.


ivi0haiviad | Student

If you read the poem well, you'll find there are two "out" there. First in the "leaped out" then in "puffed his lips out". And I think It means that when first saw leaped out and it caused the breath to be puffed out of his lips. But since the poem is full of allusion and as at the end the poet is criticizing people who easily forget their dead ones I can strongly claim it refers to out of sight, out of mind

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