What effect does Frost's use of personification have on our interpretation of this piece? Explain your response with direct reference to the text.
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The theme of this poem is the idea that fate, or chance, has a huge impact on our life. It is almost as if fate has a life of its own -- it goes around doing stuff to us and we can't stop it.
In this poem, the thing that is given human characteristics is the saw. This is appropriate because the saw is the main thing that shows fate at work in the people's lives. The saw has a life of its own. It rattles and snarls and finally jumps out and kills the boy.
So by giving the saw a personality, Frost is emphasizing how fate has a life of its own and how it goes around affecting people's lives.
Strictly speaking Frost does not use personification at all in his poem "Out, Out - ." The saw in the poem has not been personified. Throughout the poem Frost uses only the impersonal pronoun 'it' to refer to the saw. Only if he had used the personal pronoun 'he' or 'she' it can be said that Frost has explicitly personified the saw.
What Frost has done is, he has merely attributed human characteristics to an inanimate object like the saw. The 'buzz saw' in the following lines takes on a human attribute - that is, it could understand the meaning of the word 'supper' just like the boy and leaped or seemed to leap out of the boy's hand:
As if it meant to prove saws know what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap -
The technical term for the rhetorical device which Frost has used is known as 'Pathetic Fallacy.' The term 'Pathetic Fallacy' was first coined by the art critic John Ruskin (1819 - 1900) in his work "Modern Painters" (1856). Ruskin defines 'pathetic fallacy' as “to signify any description of inanimate natural objects that ascribes to them human capabilities, sensations, and emotions."
The difference between 'personification' and 'pathetic fallacy' is subtle. In 'personification' the inanimate object virtually becomes a human being and it is represented by the personal pronouns 'he' or 'she.' In 'pathetic fallacy' the inanimate object merely takes on human qualities and is represented only by the impersonal pronoun 'it.'
In Frost's poem "Out, Out-" he uses personification to demonstrate the loss of control people have in their own lives. he places the emphasis on the saw. The buzz saw snarls like a person as it continues to cut wood. The sister comes out to call the boy to supper and the saw is present. Again the question of the saw’s human characteristics arises.
"As if it meant to prove saws know what supper meant,"
The saw is given the ability of movement like a person who can jump.
"Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap"
The boy's death is referred to by Frost as being put under by ether, a chemical that has been used previously during surgery to put someone to sleep.
Frost is well known fro using personification to help take ordinary things and circumstances and create a visual image.
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