What is the central idea of the poem "Out, Out-" by Robert Frost?

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“Out,Out—“ by Robert Frost is based on a real event.  When he was a teenager, Frost’s neighbor friend had his hand cut off in an accident.  This became the basis for this narrative poem.

 Another source for the poem comes from the Shakespearean play Macbeth. This allusion to Shakespeare gives the poem its title and is the primary theme of the play. The dialogue comes from Macbeth learning of the death of his wife when he speaks:

 “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:”

Shakespeare compares the Lady Macbeth’s short life to the burning of a candle. Further, he compares a person’s life to an actor who struggles while she lives, and then she dies.  In this poem, the main character has his life blown out like the candle.  He, too, dies and then is heard from no more.

The setting of the poem provides a deceptively, beautiful area.  It is Vermont at sunset.  In the background there are five mountain ranges.  This is not the setting for such a meaningless, tragic death. From the Bible in Psalm 121, the verse reads: I will lift mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help…” In this poem, no one can help the young boy who loses control of the tool that he was using and cuts off his own hand.

Death is also at the heart of the poem.  This boy is doing work that is too dangerous for him.   Using a buzz saw, which obviously is a man’s tool, creates a situation that should never have been allowed by whoever was in charge of him. As the end of the day comes, his sister comes out to tell everyone to come to supper. Apparently, the boy is momentarily surprised by her words, and the saw seems to leap up and grab the boy’s hand, literally nearly cutting it off.

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 boy knows that he is in danger of dying and tells his sister not to let them cut his hand off.  But he knows that it is too late. In his surgery and probably because of his blood loss, the boy’s heart stops. 

The ironic aspect of the reaction to the boy’s death again comes from Macbeth’s attitude toward the death without rage, tears, or crying.  This is the way the boy’s  family handles his death.  They are not the one who died, so they go on with their lives. His life “…signifying nothing”.

Another sad aspect of the poem pertains to the fact that so many things could have made the outcome different:

  • The boy should not have been using this dangerous tool.
  • Too bad that the boy was not allowed to quit a little earlier so...

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  • that he could have played or just been like a young boy.
  • His sister should not have surprised him while he was using this tool.

This is a young boy pretending to be a man.

Frost indicts this situation for any boy and laments his poignant death.

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What is the theme of the poem "Out, Out" by Robert Frost? 

"Out, out" is a moderately complex poem based on a true life event. In 1915, a neighbors' son's hand was severed by a buzz saw.  

There are several themes at work in this thirty-nine line poem. The first is the theme of danger. The poem begins, "The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard." "Snarling" is personifying the saw, making it, from the get-go, appear menacing and dangerous.  

A few lines down, the saw seems to have gained an even stronger dark power. As the boy's sister calls him to supper, 

... the saw,

As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,

Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap—

This leads into the second major theme of the poem, that of a child being forced to do the work of a man. The speaker seems to feel pity for the boy, 

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.

But he is not allowed even a half hour of childish leisure. Then there are the very troubling lines that the boy may have deliberately hurt himself as the saw

Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap—

He must have given the hand. However it was,

Neither refused the meeting.

The third theme is that of emotional distance. The coldness of the family may be a result of having to focus on basic survival. Or perhaps, as many children did not survive childhood in harsh, rural, and poor New England, they never allowed themselves the luxury of forming deep bonds. Whatever the reason, the short shrift they give to the horrific accident is chilling. 

And they, since theywere not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

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What is the theme of the poem of "Out, Out—" by Robert Frost?  

There are several themes that are applicable to "Out, Out—" by Robert Frost. One is hinted at in the title which alludes to this part of Macbeth's speech:

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.

In this poem, Frost uses a child to echo the sentiment that life is fragile and fleeting.

The saw has a menacing characterization from the first line as it snarls and rattles. As a young boy uses it in his work, he is "all but done" with his task and the day when his sister appears to call him to supper. This sets up the first tragedy. He is startled, and the saw horrifically cuts his hand. A doctor comes, gives him ether, and the second tragedy occurs: the young boy unexpectedly dies.

Frost uses a child to make the theme more vivid. Young children aren't supposed to die. This child is doing a man's work when he is caught off guard by a simple call to supper. His sister comes to bring him news of an impending nourishment that instead ends his life. The doctor who comes to save him instead creates a medical complication that kills him.

In each section of the narrative, the unexpected happens, and all combine to create a situation that ends a young child's life. Life is full of the unexpected, and this poem indicates that life is simply a candle that spends a brief moment on stage and then "is heard no more."

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What is the theme of the poem of "Out, Out—" by Robert Frost?  

The theme of this poem is the fragility of life and the unexpectedness of death.  The title of the poem is an allusion to Shakespeare's play, Macbeth.  In this play, Macbeth has just learned that his wife is dead and he laments her early death.  He says, "out, out brief candle."  The candle is a symbol of life -- in this case the life of the boy.  Candles are finite and their flames are easily extinguished, just like the boy in the poem.  Even though everyone knows that humans will all die at some point, no one in the poem expected that this would be the boy's last day, but he died in a slow instant -- his life was blown out like a candle. 

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What is the theme of the poem of "Out, Out—" by Robert Frost?  

To me, the theme of this poem is that little decisions can have huge consequences.  If they had stopped working a little earlier, they would not have needed to be called in to supper.  If the girl had been a little more careful, perhaps, the boy would not have been surprised when she called him to supper.  Small things like that end up leading to the loss of the boy's life.

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

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

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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