Why does narrator wish they had said "call it a day" instead of "supper"?Explain your response with reference to the text.

Expert Answers
jseligmann eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well, let's see the context:

Call it a day, 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.
His sister stood beside them in her apron To tell them 'Supper'.
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.However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!

What the narrator is saying is that if the work had been stopped just a half an hour sooner, maybe the fatal accident never would have taken place. Insread, as the light was dimming and it became supper time, the saw somehow got loose and did what it did. So much in our lives, and maybe even the circumstances of our deaths, can depend on so little.

Read it again, and notice how big the word "saved" looks now:

To please the boy by giving him the half hour

That a boy counts so much when saved from work.

And perhaps from death.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The reason is because if they had said the one thing instead of the other, the boy would not have been killed.

When the accident happens, it is late.  We are told that it was "under sunset" and "day was all but done."  It was late enough that it would have been okay to quit.

But instead, they decided to keep on working.  So then the sister comes out to tell them it's time for supper.  Presumably the boy is distracted and that's when the saw gets him.

So if they would have just quit working, the sister wouldn't have come out and distracted the boy and he wouldn't have died.

mrbones | Student

The narrator of the poem (who we can probably identify with the poet) is clearly conflicted about injecting subjectivity into his portrayal of the scene. The poem strives for realism, and the powerful understatement of the ending underscores the harsh realities of this time and place. However, in interesting ways, the poem also draws attention to the desires of the speaker to manipulate our experience of the poem as it is told. At times the speaker catches himself romanticizing the story through devices like metonymy and personification. "Call it a day I wish they might have said" is a clear example of the speaker projecting his desires onto the "reality" of the action. It is, of course, also foreshadowing.

Similarly, later in the poem, the speaker has to resist personifying the saw and thus potentially treating it as evil rather than just presenting it as the amoral object that it is: "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. However it was,/Neither refused the meeting."

This overt struggle with realism marks much of Frost's work. In this regard, "Out, Out–" is very similar to a poem like "Birches."