The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them ‘Supper’. At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap–
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh.
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all–
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart–
He saw all spoiled. ‘Don’t let him cut my hand off
The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!’
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then — the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. 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.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Robert Frost's poem ‘Out, Out–‘

70 Comments

  1. Radds says:

    I do not want to criticize this work of ‘art’-The reason I like this poem is that,as I understand,the poet despises the callousness people show towards such incidents as this-I think this poem is dealing with a note of cruel callousness of things against man-against man by his own fellow-beings.This also convey ideas of bruteforce of mechines,and with it we see the boy’s life dying ‘out’,which also captures the briefness of life.I do not know whether my understanding is wrong,but just thought of giving my opinion about it.

  2. Mir says:

    Personally, I doubt that this poem has ANYTHING to do with the World Wars, and really, what was the purpose of putting down what Frost got his idea from the poem from? It completely takes away from the analytical side of the poem, and the mystery that is hidden has been revealed. The POINT of almost all poems that anyone has written is the mystery that is in its depth, and you who told the truth about the poem has just ruined the entire thing! Before I learned the so called ‘truth’, I assumed that this BOY, boy being key word-as in-not MAN-, had no father and so, was doing a man’s work to provide for his family. If so, then the reason that he so desperatly wanted his hand was so to keep his family from complete poverty. I think that the mountains described in the first few lines of the poem symbolize the barriers that have been put forth to the boy, that he CANNOT prevent what will happen to not. The SUNSET that is mentioned may symbolize the ending of life, that is quickly proven at the end of the poem, as the boy dies. The saw is portrayed as an animal, not exactly a snake, because a snake HISSES, but the repition of the ‘…snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,’ , has a major impression on this poem. I am not quite sure of why it is repeated (emphasis?) but I’m sure it is extremely important to the poem as a whole. I do not know what role the sister plays in this poem, (perhaps just a distraction) but as the reptition mentioned before, I am sure she has an important part as well.

  3. brei says:

    what if a poet writes something just because its meaningful to them, what if they didnt intend to use language techniques, imagery, sound devices and so on? i have written poems, of course they are not brilliant but i didn’t write them so they could be analysed or looked at like a specimen. i simply wrote them to evoke feelings and tell stories. what if a poet simply wants you to feel instead of looking for all the techniques used! at school we have pages and pages of notes on how to appreciate a poem! dosen’t that sound silly? to anyone? i just want to know if im the only one who feels that not all poems are there to be analysed.

  4. nassira says:

    hi i like this poem cause it show us how much life is a comedy , we spend it all on fighting and working hardly to reach our ‘dreams’and needs that have no end and we forget that everything has an end an end that give no importance to our motivations or dreams or even age as in the peom above so i think it s better to”work for your dreams as if your living forever,and work for you god gd tings as if you will die tomorrow”

  5. clearleen smith says:

    i am not surprised at frost with his title that suggests a more in depth meaning than its surface. like lady macbeth in macbeth, a deed was already done that could not be undone.
    the title suggests the literal meaning of someone taken out of existence, life taken out of him, the blood taken out of him.it may sound morbid, but frosts speaks to reality a lot, using stories to redirect us to the morbid truthhs about our existence and our limitations as humans not to mention the inexperiences and innocence of a child no matter what role he takes on.
    frost demands that his readers dig deep for meaning and that a one time reading is never enough.
    thre is contrast as he sets this terrible mishap against the background of 5 mountain ranges. is there a deeper significance to these mountains.,do they signify hardships, or peace after death.we the reders are yet again drawn into the psychological warfare of anger vs empathy.why did this boy give up so easily/ is it the act that even though he is a boy he recognises that he will be useless and become a burden to hi family along with the fact that it was just a frightening experienc/
    from the beginning of this dramatic piece of work we are made to expect something gruesom the snarl, like that of an untamed , wild beast, the rattling which again is an animal that moves fast and is dangerous, the snake.is there dramatic irony here/

  6. lady beth says:

    this is hard to read

  7. houda says:

    hi 1st. i wanna ask about “5 mountains ranges one behind the other” what does robert frost want to mean by 5 mountains, please?

  8. Megan says:

    I love this poem. I think that Frost captures the reality of life in an out of the way place and the fragility of life. Its seems to me that mourning the death of the boy was a luxury that his family could not afford because of the hardship of their every day life. Its such a sad poem.

  9. Paddy says:

    firstly, the title of the poem is a quote from Macbeth. The techniques used include a speech, storylike narrative, and short tense setnances. There are also sounds such as “snarled and rattled” The language is also used to get acorss the meaning, eg: the use of “rueful laugh” is ornic. The meaning of the poem is about life and death, and the attitue of others. It is about a good life that has been wasted. Frost points out how precious life is, an dhow easiy things can change so quicky.

  10. Printninja says:

    Reading this poem for the first time is a powerful experience, for if you simply surrender to the words, and let yourself feel the impact Frost is conveying, you can’t help but shudder at the end, even after multiple reading. It’s the “chills up your spine” emotional connectivity we seek. That’s what poetry is all about. I don’t want to over-analyze the meaning, I want to feel the connection, and in so doing, come to a deeper level of understanding. This is the capacity that every one of us has – to appreciate genius and artistry even though we may not posses the raw talent ourselves. It’s a uniquely human ability, and one that many people ignore because it does take effort and practice. It’s the same thing that prevents someone from appreciating fine art, or classical music. It takes effort, but as anyone who makes the effort can tell you, there’s nothing else like it on earth.

  11. Jenny says:

    Fair point Gaz. but to say that this poem has no deeper meaning would mean there was no purposeful reason behind writing it. if it was just a story then why would Frost bother? why would he angonize over the creation of rhymth, alliteration etc? Besides, Frost was a thoughtful kinda guy. In his other Poems like Birches and The Road Not Taken, it seems like he is exploring a number of concepts and themes although on the surface, he tells a simplistic story.

  12. Jenny says:

    The irregular use of iambic pentameter and the frequent use of caesura and enjambement through out ‘Out, Out-‘ conveys the spontaneity of impulsive thoughts. This is also indicated through the unconvential syntax (arragement of sentences) of certain lines, such as ‘Call it a day, i wish they might have said’
    You may want to comment on the use of onomatopoeia and assonace in the first few lines especially…comment on the effect the poem has because of these devices.
    Hope this helps!! Good Luck all.

  13. Meagan says:

    I really don’t completely understand poetry, but the words are nice and all. I just hate having to dig deep and figure out what in the world those crazy, weird people meant when they wrote all that. Frost is really morbid in this poem, but I know that it has a lot of meaning and I wanted to say thanks to every1 that has contributed something relevant and helpful. You’re my heroes!

  14. lolly says:

    i don’t lik this poem because it isn’t modern enough

  15. anu young says:

    my understanding of this poem is not full and proper and i need someone with the skills of imparting simple but evaluative expalnation coz my exam on it is near to come.

  16. Mr. P says:

    When reading Frost, it’s crucial that you don’t interpret his poetry superficially. This poem in one sense is certainly about what literally happens: a boy meets with an unfortunate accident that eventually takes his life–an idea Frost probably extracted from a newspaper article that described such a situation. But on a larger level, look not at what the poem says, but instead at what it doesn’t say. For example, I noticed other responses talk about how the family is “cold” and “doesn’t show emotion.” This is a mistake. The speaker chooses NOT to tell us about that aspect of their reaction–that doesn’t mean it didn’t/wouldn’t happen. What I think we’re seeing is the utter helplessness and lack of control over meeting with death. One minute the boy smelled the sweet scented air permeated by the splinters of wood, next he was put in the dark of ether. LIFE can change that quickly, and not as a result of any conscious choices WE make. The speaker’s frustration with this helplessness is evident in his matter-of-fact attitude: “So…No more to build on there.” I also wonder about the sick sense of humor in the poem. The boy held up his hand “half in protest”–HALF? That’s just cruel. And “No more to ‘build’ on there”? Even more ironic since the boy died as a result of doing work. “The boy ‘SAW’ all”? Even more irony, as the saw is what’s responsible for his death. I agree with what one person above wrote about the “all” in that statement. The boy realizes in an instant his naivete and quickly recognizes how fragile life is, how our world is one ungoverned by order and subject to frequent uncontrollable collisions. These collisions often claim innocence–in both senses. Innocence as a virtue (almost) and innocence as in innocent people (young people in this case). The mountain ranges, 5 for 5 work days in a week perhaps, really emphasize just how small and impermanent this boy is. Sad though. I hope I don’t meet with such an end. I would far prefer to die at 101 in a warm bed after a peaceful sleep.

  17. johnny says:

    i think this poem is about the countryside and its daily routine.the boy is doing his work to help the parents.wealso do household work to help our parents.the boy is tired and hungry and when the sister calls him for the supper he lost the attention and gives his hand to hte saw accidently.the poem is about the daily happennings in the countryside.maybe in new england country side where the poet lived.

  18. sarah says:

    THANK YOU, GAZ!! (the guy from UK on page 3)
    dude, you know, most poets are drunks and everything- do you really think that there is some elaborate subliminal message that they hide in their poetry? they probably just go into a bar, write stuff down, then hand it to their publisher. Now, don’t get me wrong, i like poetry just as much as the next guy, but, to psyco-analize the stuff is ridiculous!

  19. Jane says:

    its sad that the boy had to die because he was trying to help the work and acted mature at work.
    Even though it was just for 30 minutes, he still got something done. There were lots of imageries, 5 sensories, and lilterary device. I didn’t get when the family just saw and didn’t say anything. It’s a little bit confusing.
    But this poem was not a good poem on one of the Frost’s poem. He writes way better than these poems that let us wonder about these life situation.
    =)

  20. amool says:

    can anyone help i would be v. grateful. although i do think the poem shows great use of alliteration and personification plz help

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