In the poem Out, Out- by Robert Frost (1916) there are a plethora of themes addressed by the poet such as the vulnerability of children, fragility of life, the callous nature of society and the issue of child labour. The poet effectively cleverly uses literary techniques such as personification, onomatopoeia and many more to establish the setting, plot, imagery and characters, which in turn manifests the themes addressed in the poem. In short Out, Out- is a poem that describes a young child who has to face an untimely death due to an accident at his work place.
Some critics have suggested that the title of the poem is an allusion of Macbeth (a Shakespearean play). It’s recognized to allude to Macbeths comments at the event of Lady Macbeth’s death in which he says Out, out, brief candle! This is effective as the reference to the candle may be a comparison the boy’s life that ends the same way a candle bows out. In my opinion this is an effective use of allusion as it forebodes the death of the boy the same way a candle goes off or the death of Lady Macbeth. (Shmoop, 2018)
One of the most important themes that Robert incorporates in his poem is the theme of child labour. There are two references to child labour that is mentioned in the poem. The first case happens to be a boy who is constantly referred to as a child in which he is cruelly gets dragged into an accident in which he looses his hand and later on passes away due to this. The poet effectively establishes this theme by the use of Since he was old enough to (Shmoop, 2018)fact that he is a young child that engages himself in labour that he shouldn’t be engaged in. In addition to this Frost uses another less evident example of the sister who stood behind him in her apron again conveys that she is engaged in domestic tasks which she shouldn’t be involved in during her age.
Another theme that is conveyed in the poem is the fragility of life. The poet effectively reinforces this by the use of Call it a day, I wish they might have said. This evidently suggests that if the boy was given a break the tragic accident may not have occurred. It stresses on the fact that a minor difference in the work routine could have saved something as precious as a life. Further conveying that it only takes something small to end a life. This is also linked to the vulnerability of children.
Furthermore the poet establishes a few subthemes, such as the callous nature of society. This is evident in And since they Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs. This line suggests that society doesn’t really care about others. This attacks the self-centered nature of everyone apart of society. Its hostility is conveyed as even an unjust death of a small boy is completely disregarded by the members of the society. The indifference of the people is somewhat criticized by the poet, this is evident in the tone of the line quoted above, which appears to be very critical.
More over the theme that life continues or goes on is also suggested by the use of turned to their affairs suggests that despite the tragic even of loosing a life the people around still had to move and fend for their daily chores. Robert Frost incorporates the setting of the poem to criticize child labour.
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