Who is the narrator in the poem "Out,Out--" by Robert Frost? Why are the characters not named?

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem “Out, Out—“  by Robert Frost was based on an actual event.  The Frost family’s young neighbor boy lost his hand while using a saw and lost so much blood that his heart stopped. This was event that the poet never forgot.

The narration is first person point of view.  Frost was probably the narrator since he knew about the incident first hand.  As a bystander, the narrator is free to give the thoughts of the boy when he realizes that he is going to lose his hand.

It is obvious that the narrator believes that the boy should never have been using the dangerous equipment. He was too little; even though the boy knew how hazardous the buzz saw could be, he still was a little boy doing a man’s job. 

In addition, the speaker wishes that the adults had let the boy off a half hour early so that he could play or rest. Maybe, he could just be a little boy.  The narrator’s point is somewhat sarcastic because if the adults in charge of the boy had let him off he would not have cut off his hand.

In many of Frost’s poems, the main character or protagonist is not given a name.  This allows the character to become an “every man.”  He can represent all men who find themselves in the character’s predicament. 

In this situation, the boy remains nameless in order to establish that this child was essentially being abused. No child should be made to use a dangerous buzz saw which should only be used by adults.

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.

Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!

Frost’s emphasizes the boy’s innocence and inability to adequately use such equipment. Ironically, the first child labor law was passed the year of the writing of the poem.  Its purpose was to provide for the health, safety, and welfare of minors. By forbidding their employment or work in certain establishments and occupations and also using equipment that was dangerous, children finally somewhat protected. It was too little, too late for this child.

The theme of the poem  points out the importance of childhood.  The boy  should not have been placed in the position of such danger since he  was just a child.

Furthermore, the attitude of the adults concerning the loss of the boy was less than admirable.  Life goes on, and he was just another little boy.  Apparently, the attitude of  treating  human life as insignificant  made the adults seem pitiless toward an innocent who lost not just his hand but his life.