Out, Out Poem Analysis by Robert Frost

‘Out, out’ is a poem written by the American poet Robert Frost. Frost wrote it in the memory of a neighborhood boy who used to play with his children. The boy died having his hand lacerated by the buzz saw with which he was working. The poem dramatically describes the tragic death of the boy amidst the setting of a cruel rural life.

The title of the poem refers to a sentence from Scene 5 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Where it says,

Out, out, brief candle! / Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage / And then is heard no more: it is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.

Macbeth, by Shakespeare

This part clearly describes the whole preoccupation behind writing the poem. It is about as Robert Pack said “the nothingness of life and the meaninglessness of death.”

The poem begins with the imagery of dust coming out of the wood being cut by a buzz saw. It probably symbolizes what the poet is going to say at the end of the poem that human life is nothing but dust.

The saw is described as a powerful machine that cuts the wood effortlessly. Nature which surrounds the place of incident is serene. In such a natural setting, the poet imagines the random tragedy of death. This juxtaposition shows us the meaninglessness of life more sharply. 

When the boy is working, his sister comes to announce supper. The dramatization of the whole incident is the crucial ingenuity of the poem. It disturbs the concentration of the boy and his hand comes in contact with the saw. The moment is described exactly the way it must have happened, in an instant. The tool which a human has created becomes the weapon against him.

The poet is very detached the moment the boy dies from the shock of having his hand removed by the doctor. It describes the way of dealing with grief. The boy himself is in denial and can not accept the fact that so suddenly and randomly he lost his hand.

The poet narrates the whole incident in such a way as he wants to help in some way. The speaker’s choice of words shows bitterness towards life and the frustration which comes from such a tragedy. It is shown from the choice of the title which in disgusts says, “out, out.”

The theme of the poem can be compared to many other poems by Frost. It shows the general outlook of the poet towards life, the recognition that life is absurd in the end. Apart from the allusion to Macbeth, the poem uses strong imageries to build up its message of grief. The poem shows how “death is woven into the fabric of life.”