How is the theme of loss presented in "Out, Out--" and "Disabled"?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Robert Frost's poem "Out, Out--" loss has many meanings. First, the boy sawing wood feels the loss of his free time and his freedom when he isn't dismissed a half hour early from work. As Frost writes, "Call it a day, I wish they might have said / To please the boy by giving him the half hour / That a boy counts so much when saved from work." The boy loses this vital half hour, and it is then that he loses his hand. Suddenly, with the loss of his hand, the boy knows that he has lost all the promise of his young life. As Frost writes, "He saw all spoiled." The boy fears losing his land and sadly loses his life. 

Frost's poem details a series of losses that build to the loss of life. The boy first loses his freedom and then his hand and then his life. There is a connection between the loss of the boy's freedom and youth while working in a mill and the subsequent loss of his life, implying that once the boy goes to work cutting wood, he has begun to lose his vital youth and that everything soon will be taken away from him, including his life.

In Wilfred Owen's poem "Disabled," a maimed veteran acutely feels the loss of his legs and arm (or arms). With the loss of his arm and leg, the veteran has also, like the young man in "Out, Out--", lost his youth and vitality. Though the character in "Disabled" still is alive, he has lost much of what he had to live for. Owen writes, "Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn." The voices sound sad to the veteran because they force him to think about how he can no longer run. 

The veteran cannot dance with a girl, and he feels this loss most acutely. As Owen writes: "Now he will never feel again how slim / Girls' waists are, or how warm their subtle hands, / All of them touch him like some queer disease." The veteran feels much less masculine, and he notices how women's eyes pass over him on the way to "strong men that were whole." In the end, he merely wants to go to bed, as the loss of his limbs has made him lose hope for the future.