The Poem

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 562

“Home Burial,” a dramatic narrative largely in the form of dialogue, has 116 lines in informal blank verse. The setting is a windowed stairway in a rural home in which an unnamed farmer and his wife, Amy, live. The immediate intent of the title is made clear when the reader learns that the husband has recently buried their first-born child, a boy, in his family graveyard behind the house. The title can also be taken to suggest that the parents so fundamentally disagree about how to mourn that their “home” life is in mortal jeopardy—in danger of being buried. Further, Amy, because of her introspective grieving, risks burying both her marriage and her sanity.

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The husband enters the stairway from below and sees her before she sees him, because she is wrapped up in herself. He tardily observes that she has been looking out the stairway window at the graveyard, already containing four of “my people” and “the child’s mound.” She doubts that he ever noticed the graveyard from that window and cries out for him to stop talking. Avoiding his touch, she shrinks past him down the stairs. When he asks why a man cannot speak of his “lost” child, she counters first by saying “Not you!” and then by doubting that any man can. She abruptly announces that she must get some air. He tells her not to take her grief to “someone else this time,” sits so as not to seem domineering, and, calling her “dear,” says he wishes to ask her something. When she replies that he does not know how to ask, he requests her “help,” grows bitter at her silence, and generalizes: Men must give up some manliness when married, and further, two who love should to be able to discuss anything. He wants to be allowed into her grief, which he thinks she is “overdo[ing]a little,” and hints that their love could produce a child to replace the dead one, whose “memory might be satisfied” by now.

Her rejoinder that he is “sneering” makes him upbraid and half-threaten her and ask why he cannot talk about “his own” dead child. This provokes her longest speech, briefly interrupted by his comment that he feels so “cursed” that he should laugh. The essence of her complaint is that he does not know how to speak, that she could not even recognize him when he dug the grave so energetically that he made “the gravel leap and leap,” and that his voice then was too “rumbling” when he commented that foggy and rainy weather will rot good birch fences. Concluding that he cannot care, she in turn generalizes: Friends grieve for another’s loss so little that they should not bother “at all,” and when a person “is sick to death” he “is alone, and he dies more alone.” Even when survivors attend a burial they are busy thinking of their own lives and actions. She calls the world evil and adds that she will not have grief this way if she “can change it.”

He mistakenly feels that she has said her say, will stay now, and should close the door. She blurts out that he thinks “the talk is all” and that she must “go—/ Somewhere out of this house.” He demands to know where and vows to “bring you back by force.”

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 503

“Home Burial” achieves tension first of all through its use of unpretentious wording in blank verse, a poetic form with a tradition going back centuries, to tell a tragic domestic story in a homely locale. More obvious tension results from the fact that Amy and her husband have no meeting of either heads or hearts. He speaks fifty-eight lines, many of which are incomplete, while she speaks forty-five such lines. In contrast to the rhetoric of William Shakespeare’s flowing blank-verse dialogue, Frost’s is full of rushes,...

(The entire section contains 1201 words.)

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