Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Robert Frost's poem, "Out, Out—" is about a boy who loses his hand to a saw and subsequently dies of the injury. It is a somewhat tragic poem. Below are four key quotations.
The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard
This quotation, the opening line of the poem, immediately establishes a threatening, ominous tone. The word "snarled" is an example of zoomorphism, whereby an inanimate object is given animalistic traits, and it equates the saw with a savage, aggressive animal about to strike. The phrase "snarled and rattled," which is repeated just a few lines later, implies that the saw is restless, and the sibilance in the phrase, "buzz saw snarled," connoting perhaps the hiss of a snake, also contributes to the sinister tone.
the saw, / As if to prove saws knew what supper meant, / Leaped out at the boy's hand
The description of the saw as a living, sentient creature is compounded in this second quotation. The boy's sister calls him in to supper, and the saw, hearing the word supper, leaps out and cuts off the boy's hand, as if it too were hungry for food. The continued description of the saw as a living creature makes it more menacing and more sinister than it would be if it were simply an inanimate object. In this way, the saw is very much the villain of the poem.
This third quotation is important because it highlights the youth of the victim. He is, throughout the poem, called "the boy," and in this particular quotation, his youth is emphasized by the fact that he is a "boy / Doing a man's work." By emphasizing the victim's youth, the tragedy of his situation seems even more pitiable.Then the boy saw all— / Since he was old enough to know, big boy / Doing a man’s work
This fourth quotation comprises the closing lines of the poem. When the boy's heart stops, the people around him, "since they / Were not the one dead," simply return to "their affairs." The quick, indifferent dismissal of the boy's death ends the poem with a tragic note of bathos. It's as if his life didn't matter at all, and this perhaps makes the reader feel even more pity for the boy. Not only did he suffer a horrific injury and die a premature death, but he also led a life which, when it came to an end, seemed to leave no trace or lasting impression.They listened at his heart. / Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it. / No more to build on there. And they, since they / Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.