Summarize what is the theme in "Out, out" by Robert Frost

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The poem "Out, out--", by Robert Frost, can be interpreted in several ways, as is common with Frost's poetry. But it includes a description of various responses to life's tragedies.   

In this narrative poem, much pathos is created for the young boy whose hand is severed from his arm by a buzz-saw. The accident results in the boy's death.  This accident is shown as being a freak one: if the sister had just called him to supper an half an hour earlier, then the accident would have never occured.  Frost seems to show us how quickly life can be taken away, how quickly everything can change. 

Yet, we also see that the boy was not supposed to die from this accident.  Because he lost his hand, "he saw all spoiled."  The boy could not envision his life without a hand, and indeed farm labor is very difficult with this handicap.  It's as if the boy had not the heart to continue to live. Can we be so devastated by tragic events in our lives that we lose the will to live? 

 Frost shows us that after his death, everyone else "tended to their affairs."  Was the boy's  life meaningless?  Did his life matter? The title refers to Macbeth's speech after learning about his wife's death.  In this speech, Macbeth refers to life as a

walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

 And then is heard no more.

As Frost portrays life moving on from this tragic event, he seems to question the harshness of a lifestyle that allows no time for mourning and continues on as if the boy never lived.   


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To me, this poem is exploring the issue of whether bad things are just random things that happen for no reason and can't be explained or whether they are things that we should really examine and try to explain.

In this poem, something horrible happens -- the saw kills the boy.  But so what?  Is this something that just happens and you just say "what can you do about it" and move on?  That is how the family seems to react -- they just go about their business after the boy dies.  Is this really how things should be?  Should we just accept accidents like this stoically and move on?  Or should we try to figure out what went wrong and assign blame?  Should we say that the sister should not have come out and distracted the boy?

I believe that these are the questions that Frost is inviting us to ask as we read this poem.  He wants us to think about whether the things that happen to us are things that we can understand and try to change or if stuff just happens and all we can do is accept it and deal with it.

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