In Frost's poem "Death of the Hired Man," what do Warren's and Mary's different definitions of "home" suggest about their feelings towards Silas?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Warren believes that

"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."

In contrast, Mary calls home

"Something you somehow haven't to deserve."

Warren looks at everything in practical terms. He considers Silas a burden, observing,

"What good is he? Who else will harbor him at his age for the little he can do?"

Silas has also proven himself to be undependable in the past. At haying time, when Warren could have used the little help he could give the most, the hired man would go somewhere else where he could earn more than Warren could pay him.

Warren acknowledges that Silas is a good worker in some ways;

"He bundles every forkful in its place, and tags and numbers it for future reference...Silas does that well."

The hired man's small assets as a worker are not enough to make Warren feel that he should take him in, however. Warren feels that Silas's brother should do that, as he is family, and it is his duty.

Mary, on the other hand, sees Silas as a human being, who deserves to be treated with love and respect. To her, Silas has value simply because of who he is; it does not matter how much work he can do. When the hired man told her that he meant to "ditch the meadow" and "clear the upper pasture," she understood that he could no longer do either of those things, but needed to believe he could "to save his self-respect." She looks at Silas sensitively, and with sympathy, saying,

"Poor Silas...nothing to look backward to with pride...and nothing to look forward to with hope...he don't know why he isn't quite as good as anyone."

With heartfelt perceptiveness, Mary believes that Silas does not go to his brother because he is ashamed of his worthlessness in practical terms. He has come to them instead, because he has feels that they will allow him to retain a vestige of his dignity. Warren and Mary's place is home to him, and Mary believes that every man deserves at least that.