In the poem "Out, Out—," where are personification and onomatopoeia and what is the theme?

The phrase "snarled and rattled" is onomatopoeic, and the references to the buzz saw snarling, leaping, and seeming to understand are instances of personification. The principal theme is the indifference to tragedy by those not personally affected.

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In Robert Frost's "Out, Out—" the buzz saw is personified in a subtle and qualified manner. The repeated phrase "snarled and rattled" suggests an animal or an ill-natured person in the first word, but a machine in the second. There is a similar effect in the lines:

His sister stood beside him in her apron
To tell them ‘Supper.’ At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap—
He must have given the hand.

The poet personifies the saw, then withdraws the personification. The saw seems to know what supper means, and it seems to leap, but these are only appearances. The effect is to suggest that the saw gives such a strong impression of agency and intent to harm the boy, that the poet is constantly having to backtrack and remind himself that it is only a machine.

The onomatopoeia in the poem increases the reader's sense of the saw as a curious and malign hybrid: capriciously cruel as a human, remorseless as a machine. The phrase "snarled and rattled" is again the clearest example. The name of the buzz saw is another, since "buzz" describes the noise it makes. When the boy is lying in bed, the phrase "puffed his lips out with his breath" conveys a sense of futility with the sound of escaping air.

Among several themes, perhaps the one that stands out most starkly after reading the poem (since it is reinforced by the last lines) is the indifference to tragedy by those not personally involved. As the buzz saw is half-personified, the actual people around the boy seem half-mechanized in their lack of reaction to his death.

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Personification is a literary device whereby an inanimate object is given human or animate qualities. The personification in the poem "Out, Out -" has to do with the saw. The saw is described as something that "snarl(s)," giving it the attribute of a ferocious animal, or a beast. It also "leap(s) out at the boy's hand," again like a wild animal, and its act is given the human quality of intentionality; it leaps out "as if to prove saws knew what supper meant."

Onomatopoeia is another literary device in which words are chosen for their sounds in describing to the subject at hand. In the poem, the writer repeats the words "buzz" and "snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled" to replicate the sounds made by the buzz-saw. The consonants in these words in particular - the "zz" in "buzz," the "rl" in "snarled," and the "r" and "tt" in "rattled" - serve to mimic the inexorable mechanical noise emitted by the saw.

The central themes of the poem are industrialization and death. The mechanical saw contrasts with the idyllic scene of the Vermont countryside, and represents the destruction and dehumanizing capacity of machines. As in the larger issues of war, which uses machines of destruction, and the industrial revolution, the author illustrates the vulnerability of the human individual at the hands of the machines he has created. An inevitable result of this phenomenon is death, often the death of innocents like the young boy, and when death strikes, it too is impersonal, almost mechanical, as those around the boy, "since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs."

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