Stylistically, the poems "'Out, Out -'" by Robert Frost and "Empty Cradle Sad" by Bette Wolf Duncan are both story poems, which tell a tale of a realistic happening with vivid imagery. Frost's poem depicts a New England family working at sunset, cutting "stove-length sticks of wood," while Duncan's work describes an Indian woman planting a garden on the Montana frontier while her newborn baby lies beneath a pine tree, shielded from the sun. Both Frost and Duncan utilize descriptive figurative language, with Frost speaking of a buzz-saw that "snarl(s) and rattle(s)," and Duncan recreating the unforgettable image of the Indian woman screaming and flying after the squaw who has abducted her baby "just like the geese above." The natural world plays a large role in both of the poems, and an omniscient narrator guides the reader to an understanding of the point each writer is trying to make.
The two poems, however, are most notably similar in their thematic content, although each approaches the topic very differently. The common theme in both poems is empathy; "Empty-Cradle Sad" describes the presence of it, while "'Out, Out -'" focuses on its lack. Both Frost and Duncan state the message they wish to convey at the end of their respective poems; Duncan describes the shared experience of womanhood that enables the victimized Indian woman to "most surely under(stand)" the longing for a child that drove the Crow squaw from trying to steal her baby, while Frost chillingly emphasizes the cold indifference with which those who still live greet the death of the young boy by saying with brutal honesty, "they, since they were not the one dead, (turn) to their affairs."