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...
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