The Theme Of Loss In Frost’s Out, Out And Owen’s Disabled

A recurring theme of ‘loss’ is prominently presented through the narratives of the poems ‘Disabled’ by Wilfred Owen and ‘Out, Out-’ by Robert Frost. In ‘Disabled’, Owen expresses his generally negative attitude towards WW1 and how it had affected him. His use of juxtaposition regret and imagery all comply together creating a strong theme of loss. On the other poem, Robert Frost, uses language and literary terms such as imagery and sensory language, personification and caesuras to describe the theme of loss throughout the poem ‘Out, out’.

Specifically in the poem ‘Disabled’, a series of tormented recollections of a soldier who was confined to a wheelchair after losing his limbs during World War 1 along with structural features present a strong ‘theme of loss’. Owen uses that ‘loss’ in his life and exaggerates it using juxtaposing contrasts that differs the ‘living death’ he is now facing with the pleasures he once enjoyed. This is demonstrated through the regret and juxtaposition expressed in the line ‘Now he will never feel again how slim / Girls waists are” indicating how girls no longer show interest in him, exaggerating the contrast of how things were earlier between the juxtaposition of the ‘slim girls waists’ and him ‘never feeling them again’. This is further expressed in the line ‘Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal’ which repeats the use of juxtaposition as the ‘crowds that cheer for Goals’ juxtapose the few people who ‘cheered him’. Again, contrast is created along with a sense of difference as he is ‘cheered’ a different way to that of when ‘crowds cheer goals’ suggests that the ‘cheer’ for him is artificial and only because of his disability. A literal way the loss is expressed by Owen is shown in the line “Town used to swing so gay” where past tense adjective ‘used’ is used to compare the town before the war and after the war, this helps to show how he is ‘regretting’ the ‘losses’ since he joined the army. Furthermore, he phrase ‘Now, he is old; his back will never brace’ shows the man’s loss through his physical state and can be compared to the phrase ‘for it was younger than his youth, last year as they both juxtapose each other, again creating an exaggerated them of ‘loss’. Also Owen uses imagery when he talks of the man’s life bleeding out of him through a wound on his thigh as the use of the word ‘purple’ in ‘a leap of purple spurted from his thigh’, is usually a color denoting life can be correlated to the amount ordeal the soldier had gone through when he had been injured had a deep impact on him, as he no longer feels like he had a reason to live or be happy about when compared to when he was younger when he was full of joy and was living life to the fullest.

In both poems ‘Out, Out’ by Robert Frost and “Disabled” by Wilfred Owen, a similar theme of ‘loss of life’ is shared. Both poems deal with the subject of physical loss, as both protagonists of these poems experience a ‘loss’ of their body part which also happen to be unintended; in the case of ‘Disabled’ the loss of the man’s legs and the loss of a hand in ‘Out, out’. The two poets both use various literary techniques, such as similes, metaphors, personification, personification, imagery, contrast, and more literary devices, which range from subtle to obvious creating a heavy use of imagery throughout the poem which helps build an image in the reader’s mind illustrating the protagonist’s loss. Another way both poems, ‘Out Out-’ and ‘Disabled’ appear to express the ‘loss’ of their childhood and innocence is by Frost expressing it through the line ‘Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart’ which really articulates how the boy has been stripped from his childhood; being required to fill in a job of the man. Similarly, in ‘Disabled’ childhood has been ‘stripped’ as he cannot do the things that he could do in the past. Examples of this include ‘Now he will never feel again how slim / Girls’ waists are’ and how he was ‘in a wheeled chair, waiting from dark’ whilst there were ‘voices of play and please day after day’ which juxtapose each other to exaggerate the loss of his fun and joy.

Specifically in the poem ‘Out Out‘ the theme of loss is communicated linguistically through the constant use of personification, an example of this would be the personification of the Buzz Saw which constantly ‘buzzes and snarls’ while ‘jumping out of the boy’s hand’ in ‘excitement’. The line ‘leaped out at the boy’s hand or seemed to leap’ accentuates my point. Furthermore, the word ‘excitement’ is used to describe the saw which further helps create an image in the readers mind through ‘personification’ that the saw has a ‘mind of its own’. On a structural side, iambic pentameter is used at various the poem to create a rhythm for when you read the poem highlighted in the lines ‘The buzz saw snarled and rattled in the yard’ and ‘The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh’, this helps to create tension to help display loss and tension as the narrative goes on. Robert Frost initially starts the poem with hinting the tragic event to come by using a linguistic technique known as ‘foreshadowing’ as he states that he wished that the workers would have ‘called it a day’ and ‘given the boy the half hour that counts so much when saved from work’, this leads the reader to wonder what will happen as there is ‘foreshadowing’ for a unknown event. This eventually leads to the loss of the boy’s hand when he severs it. Near the end of the poem the narrator says ‘Little — less — nothing’, this is an example of diminishing words and the caesura used creates a pause to put emphasis on what has just been said. The theme of loss is communicated here because it shows that the boy is weak and now the is ‘loosing’ the value of his life from ‘Little-‘ to ‘less-‘ until it is worth ‘nothing’ because his life has been taken away from him. Onomatopoeia is also prominent throughout the poem as it helps highlight the extended personification, an example of this would be: ‘And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled’, this helps build up tension until when the boy loses his hand to help further communicate the theme of loss.

On the other hand, ‘Out Out-’ and ‘Disabled oppose the ‘theme of loss’. In ‘Out, Out-‘ Owen also implies the lack of ‘loss’ through the penultimate and last line of the poem; ‘And they, since they / Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs’ which really exposes the carelessness and lack of humanity of the family and questions whether it was really a ‘loss’ or not as they did not dwell much emotion regarding the ‘loss’ of the boy and instead immediately just carried on with their work without the boy. In ‘Disabled’ Owen did a similar thing by expressing that everything was not just about loss and that there were gains too: ‘Only a solemn man who brought him fruits, Thanked him; and then inquired about his soul’, conveys that a ‘solemn man’ cared, demonstrated by ‘bringing him fruits’, ‘thanking him’ and encouraged chats by ‘inquiring about his soul’.

In conclusion, overall both writers communicated the theme of loss effectively throughout the narrative. In both similar and different ways, the poems ‘Disabled’ by Wilfred Owen and ‘Out, out’ by Robert Frost mainly communicate the recurring theme of loss through literary devices and language features. In the poem ‘Disabled’ by Wilfred Owen; Owen mainly uses juxtaposing comparisons to draw contrasts between his current state and his former life in order to exaggerate ‘loss’ whereas the poem ‘Out, out’ by Robert Frost mainly uses literary devices which include imagery and personification along with caesuras to help convey his theme of loss.

16 December 2021
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