Analysis of How Writers Present Loss in Out Out and Disabled

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About this sample


Words: 1794 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Words: 1794|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Dec 16, 2021

Before we try to understand how the authors of the two poems tried to present the idea of loss, we first need to know what loss is. So, what is loss? Loss is being deprived of something that you need or love, such as losing a loved one such as a family member or close friend, or even losing all your money and going broke. The two poems that dis-play the theme of loss in a very honest and dark manner are called “Disabled” a war poem written in 1917 by a English poet and soldier Wilfred Owen, and “Out Out” an American poem written in 1916 by Robert Frost, which relates to the death of a young boy. Both poems also relate to having a disability of some sort. Being disabled means that you have a factor that limits your abilities, which could be both mental and physical. 

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In “Disabled”, the poem explores loss via physical loss and the impact it had on a young teenage boy, both physically and mentally. This is a big disability which has taken away his ability to move around freely like he once used to. The physical effects weren’t the only ones. It had mental and emotional effects on him too, as he is now depressed and very suicidal, as described in the story with the quote ‘waiting to be put to sleep’ and before he went to war, he was a hit with all the girls, described in the lines ‘And the girls grew lovelier as the air grew dim’ and ‘Now he will never feel again how slim girls’ waists are, or how warm their subtle hands are’. Wilfred Owen also makes use of several literary techniques. Much like other poems of Owen's, this poem truly exposes the horrors of war and the complexity of the return to the home front for many soldiers.

Owen chose to explore the theme of loss via focusing on the tragic aspects of war rather than about its false glory. In this poem, we enter the mind of a disabled soldier reflecting on his war experience, expressing disbelief and confusion more than anything else at his rejection. As well as being a personal testimony, the young man who is not named but referred to as ‘he’ could represent all disabled soldiers who have suffered similarly. The effect of such alliteration is a hastening of the reading of the lines. In 'Disabled,' Owen's use of alliteration helps to express the swiftness with which a soldier's life can change. In the first stanza, there is much alliteration: The first line repeats the with ‘in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark.’ One salient feature of this poem is its use of alliteration of the letter “W”, a technique in which the poet repeats initial consonants to create an intense scene for the reader because its a harsh sound. 'Disabled' consists of seven stanzas, which Daniel Pigg breaks down into five vignettes, representing the soldier's life. The first vignette, or first stanza, according to Pigg, 'sets the stage for understanding this alienated figure that [the poet] observes'. Already the reader finds that the speaker occupies a privileged position, because he has no first-hand experience of what it is like to be an amputee and is merely an observer. The speaker sees a 'legless' man, 'waiting for dark,' dressed in a 'ghastly suit of gray' (Lines 1-3). This pathetic image proffered to the reader creates a relationship based on pity, meaning that the reader places a high value on his functioning body while devaluing the losses of the subject. 'Waiting for dark' could be interpreted as waiting for death, and the 'ghastly suit of gray' may as well be the vestige of a ghost. The subject, who is seated near a window, hears male children at play in the park, 'saddening' him until sleep 'mothered' the voices from him (Lines 4, 6). The reader is to assume, as Owen has assumed, that the subject is saddened by memories of times past, when he, too, would play in the park with the other boys. So is the reader to assume that 'play and pleasure after day' (Line 5) are no longer available to the subject?` The end of the first stanza invites the reader to accept the subject as being dependent and child-like, as sleep 'mothered' him from the voices. Owen has effectively molded his subject into a convincing Other, a man near death and halfway into the grave.

Owen tries to show the theme of loss in Disabled’s rhyme scheme which is fairly regular with words rhyming within two or three lines of each other and within the stanza. However, he links the narrative from verse to verse by overlapping rhyme patterns into new stanzas. The opening stanza, which depicts activity eclipsed by stillness due to the passing of the hours, serves as a metaphor for the effects of time on the young man in the rest of the poem. There are many references that signal the past: ‘about this time’ . The ‘ghastly’, ‘legless’ suit, ‘sewn short at elbow’ l.two-3 relentlessly exposes us to the man’s plight.

“Out, Out” tells the tragic tale of a boy injured in an accident. Just as he is about to go in for his dinner, his arm gets caught in a buzz saw, and therefore he loses his hand, and subsequently dies from blood loss. The poem is thus a stark reminder of the fragility of life, and that tragedy can happen to anyone at any time.

The title of the poem ‘Out, out’ is an allusion to William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, in the play Macbeth is shocked to hear of his wife’s death and comments on the brevity of life in the quote ‘out, out brief candle’. It refers to how unpredictable and fragile life can be. This title itself also relates to the narrative as the poem is also about how unpredictable and fragile life is. The theme of loss is communicated in ‘Out, out’ with 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” as well as the word ‘excitement’ to describe the saw helps to create an image in the readers mind through personification that the saw has a mind of its own. This is uses later on to help display the theme of loss later on in the narrative. The poem is penned in blank verse with deviations from iambic pentameter to create a rhythm for when you read the poem, this helps to create tension to help display loss and tension as the narrative goes on. Robert Frost initially starts poem with mentioning the tragic event to come when 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 sense of loss when the boy nearly severs his hand. After the boy’s hand is nearly severed, he is still mature and old enough to realize that he has lost too much blood to survive. The boy is shown to desperately attempt to “keep the life from spilling” from his hand, but even that is only an attempt, since nothing can be done and everybody including the boy knows he will die soon. Above all, though, the boy hopes to maintain his physical dignity in his death and would rather die with a hand than die with a missing hand, this helps to shows the theme of loss when the boy dies. 

Robert Frost also shows the theme of loss when he writes: “the watcher at his pulse took fright….” this use of imagery shows that maybe an acquaintance and not a family member who is with the boy when he dies. This scene is a cold image and shows a lack of humanity to help demonstrate the theme of loss as the boy is shown to be without much family when he dies. 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 that he has nothing because his life has been taken away from him. To communicate the theme of loss at the end of the poem Robert Frost writes that the workers: ‘And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs’, this shows that the family did not feel much emotion when the boy died and instead just carried on with their work without the boy. 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 for when the boy loses his hand to help further communicate the theme of loss.

In the two poems “Out, Out” by Robert Frost and “Disabled” by Wilfred Owen, a similar theme of loss is portrayed. Both of these poems deal with the subject of physical loss, as both protagonists of these poems experience amputation which are also both accidental, in the case of ‘Disabled’ the loss of the man’s legs and the loss of a hand in ‘Out, out’. Both Robert Frost and Wilfred Owen have managed to captivate their audience’s attention, and also a certain degree of sympathy for the protagonists’ misfortune in ‘Disabled’ and ‘Out, out’. The two poets do this quite well in their poems with their use of language devices and form. The heavy use of imagery throughout the poem helped to create an image in the reader’s mind which helped to show the protagonist’s loss. Overall, this helps to make the two poems communicate the theme of loss effectively throughout the narrative.

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I decided to compare between the two poems because both of their themes are very similar and both touch on the subject of child inequality. I see these topics to be very important as both poems feature very young boys losing their lives doing something that they should not. Both authors have written to show the true tragedy of loss. This is something that has a deep impact on me as young people should live their childhood and teenage hood with their friends and family, not doing adult work that older and more responsible people should do.  

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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Analysis Of How Writers Present Loss In Out Out And Disabled. (2021, December 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“Analysis Of How Writers Present Loss In Out Out And Disabled.” GradesFixer, 16 Dec. 2021,
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