Comparative Analysis Of Robert Frost’s Out Out And Wilfred Owen’s Disabled

When choosing two poems, I was immediately captivated by ‘Disabled’ because I was fascinated how Owen created drama and how he scrutinised the substantial effect of war on young, naive adolescents; therefore, as a child myself, I felt even more affected from what he chose to write about. Moreover, what drew me to ‘Out, Out’ was the partnership of: graphic description and structural techniques to illustrate the fragility of life.

Both Owen and Frost show us the bitter reality; that life can be in fact, extremely short. Frost takes the title from Macbeth's soliloquy “out out brief candle” where he ponders on the pointlessness of life. Frost seems to be inspired by Macbeth’s cynicism to create a bleak view of life as the boy's family never pause to reflect instead they “turned to their affairs”, inferring perhaps they aren’t bothered. However, Owen depicts a veteren who was abandoned part of his existence in the war and he is almost forgotten - juxtaposing his previous life. Both poems were written in similar times (during World War One) so both writers explore the theme of remorse to inform the reader that life must continue despite the universal impact war had on people.

The dominant theme that is explored throughout ‘Disabled’ and ‘Out, Out-’ is the horror of trauma. Wilfred Owen and Robert Frost both express how young people’s lives are affected by traumatic events to assert the idea of the fragility of life alongside the brevity of the protagonists' lives.

Both writers chose different structures in their presentation in traumatic events. Owen uses juxtaposition of time in ‘Disabled’. He contrasts the tenses from past to present, creating a retrospective view of life; this shows his unorganised, random flow of thoughts. Owen unleashes an avalanche of memories with the “voices of boys which saddened him like a hymn” perhaps reminding him of the battlefield. This will constitute for the rest of the poem until the last two stanzas where Owen attempts to reinforce how pathetic through verbs such as “sleep” and “waiting”.

However, Frost chooses to write chronologically in the present throughout the poem and as it progresses, it changes from enticing metaphors describing the alluring scenery, to being detached and apathetic. Frost does this to create sympathy as the reader sees a young boy who gets his whole life ripped away from him by this ravenous creature like buzz saw.

Both writers use punctuation to stress certain areas of the poem to emphasize the horrors faced by the protagonists. In ‘Out, Out-’ many exclamations are made “but the hand!”to enhance the suspenseful climax by increasing the speed in the poem. Similarly, the regular use of hyphens in 'Disabled' creates a suspenseful climax “girls glanced … air grew dim - in the old times, before he threw his legs away” this symbolizes the substantial gap from his current versus his previous life.

Both Owen and Frost write in iambic pentameter with enjambment and full stops mid length; this connotes the randomness and unpredictability of life. However, Frost continues to endeavour and follow Shakespeare’s writing style as the poem is an unrhymed iambic pentameter that is written in a narrative form in third person. Likewise, Owen writes in third person and by writing during the same time period of the First World War, 1914, both of the writers show the reader that age is seen as irrelevant during this period; if you lacked maturity (as both boys in ‘Disabled’ and ‘Out,Out’ did), your youth can be cut short instantaneously; as a result, the protagonists lived with the consequences. In ‘Out, Out’, the boy is presented as naive as immediately after hearing the word “supper” he quickly stops working but the personified buzz saw “leaped out at the boy’s hand” and severse his hand. As the boy realises that he’s lost too much blood as he attempts to try and “keep the life from spilling” - this foreshadows the horrors already occurring with other young adolescents on the battlefield.

Both Owen and Frost effectively present the horrors of traumatic events through their use of language. Nevertheless, they use different language devices to present these horrors. Wilfred Owen uses a semantic field of colour to express the character’s emotions; in the first stanza, Owen tries to create a gruesome image of the man’s current life, therefore he uses the colour “ghastly … grey” as well as alliteration, this semantic colour connotes his near death. Then, the veteran reminisces and the semantic colour is diverses to being “light blue” this juxtaposes “grey” and creates peace - this creates a clear distinction between his contrasting feelings. The metaphor is extended, as when he is on the battlefield “he’s lost his colour… poured down shell holes” this is exceptionally effective as it makes it sound like all of his life has left him after the war and it is as if he is currently living as a ghost.

Frost, on the other hand, creates the impact of the traumatic event by using a vivid selection of personification. He describes the buzz saw as being an untamed animal through his use of language - “as if to prove he knew what supper meant, leaped out” and “snarled and rattled”. Repeating this personification creates a very tense scene and it turns the inanimate object into the vicious creature. It also makes the reader feel as if it weren’t the boy’s fault for rushing, it was the buzz saw’s disobedient behaviour.

Both Owen and Frost continue to foreshadow throughout the poem. In ‘Out, Out’, Frost immediately foreshadows as uses onomatopoeia of the saw such as “snarled and rattled” and he repeats these phrases whilst contrasting with enthralling phrases such as “sweet-scented stuff” this is to symbolize that although there are elegant vistas of nature, there is still a possibility for bad things to happen. In ‘Disabled’, foreshadowing is seen when “once he liked a blood-smear down his leg” this references to before the war when he thought that this represented masculinity and bravery. The sensuous imagery in both pieces portray the horrors they faced so the readers sense the loss of childhood and innocence; they both try to show their frustration through their language. We perceive this in the last stanza of ‘Disabled’ as he repeatedly says “why don’t they come?” This is perhaps a euphemism for the subject crying out to die to be relieved from his torturous life. Whereas, although the subject in ‘Out, Out’ is showing his frustration though his language, he repeatedly cries out for life “don’t let him”.

In conclusion, both writers successfully explore the horror of traumatic events throughout the poems through language and structural devices. 

16 December 2021
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