Welcome to Nebo Literature.

“Out Out!”  Robert Frost

I. Subject Matter – Context and Background

This poem is a dramatic monologue relating the incidents of a young boy spending the day doing a man’s job of cutting firewood.   The recreation of a scene of a bizarre accident through both description and narrative, where a mechanical saw viciously cuts off a boy’s hand and he dies.  

II.Sound Effects 

Read the poem aloud. Comment on the Sound Effects, verbal music. It’s rhyme. Rhythm and melody. Assonance, alliteration. onomatopoeia. etc. (Blending repetition patterns. slow/fast movement, harsh, discordant, sibilance, sotto, allegro,  Rhapsodic, lyrical, elegiac,  upbeat,  blue, staccato,  dirge, ode,   Melody. tone. mood. atmosphere. voice.

This is a noisy poem with lots action and a fateful catastrophic event.  It changes moods rapidly from a peaceful non-expectancy to exquisite delight of the setting to relief at the end of a working day, to fear, disbelief and finally ephemeral concern to a final apathy/stoicism.  It is the abruptness of the contrasting shifting moods that evokes our reactions and the fickleness of the participants “turning".

Onomatopoeia:    buzz saw snarled and rattled.

Alliteration:          there those that lifted eyes could count five mountain ranges
sweet scented stuff

Tone:          There is a tonal irony, where the narrative is told in a matter of fact, low-key, detached and accepting manner, while our emotional response is just the opposite.  A form of Bathos. 

IlI. Themes, concerns, issues - values


Structure: linear, circular, episodic, flash backs, climactic.     Images: (visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, gustatory) figures of speech:  similes, metaphors, personification, analogy, synecdoche, contrast, antithesis, unity, irony, Allusions, etc


Visual:        Five mountain ranges for those who look up.

Olfactory:   sweet scented stuff

Auditory:    Buzz saw snarled and rattled

Allusion: After MacBeth hears the news of his wife's death he understands that he is alone; no one is beside him and that life is short and full of illusions.

 “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

 Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

to the last syllable of records time;

 and all our yesterdays have lighted fools,

 the way to dust death.

Out, out brief candle!

Life’s  but a walking shadow,

 a poor player that struts and frets his hours upon stage

and then is heard no more .

It is a tale told by an idiot,

full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”  

The above passage has provided writers with numerous allusive titles for books including;  The Way to Dusty Death,  The Sound and the Fury, .........

Metonomy:        To stop the life from spilling
                             Hand repeated five times so it accumulates a significant emphasis.

Personification:   The saw becomes animated, represented by the buzzing, snarling and rattling.   It also leaped, or seemed to leap


Approach: Subjective/Objective, Attitude or Tone, Audience,   Style: diction, word play, puns, connotative/denotative,   emotive (coloured biased,) /demotive, (technical, dispassionate) clichés, proverbial, idiomatic, expressive, flat, Jargon, euphemisms, pejorative, oxymoron.   Gender biases.  Register:  formal, stiff, dignified  or Colloquial;  relaxed, conversational, inclusive, friendly  or Slang;  colourful, intimate,  Rhetorical devices;  Questions,  exclamations,  cumulation,  crescendo,  inversion,  bathos,  repetition,  3 cornered phrases. 

Colloquial and local idiomatic expressions transformed into poetry.
          Call it a day , 
          His sister stood beside him in her apron
          To tell him ‘supper’.
          Don’t let him cut my hand off,
          The doctor when he comes. Don’t let him sister.

Style:  Simple, direct and blunt. The impersonal narrator suggests elliptically rather than explicitly with expressions that break the flow of thought; the heavy pauses and inadequate facts force the reader to fill in their own impressions.

Oxymoron:    rueful laugh

Understatement – Bathos  Little, less, nothing! – and that ended it.

Irony – sarcasm or stoicism?                              And they, since they
                                                were not dead, turned to their affairs.
Note - not returned – but a more deliberate “turned”

Repetition:   The repetition of “snarled and rattled” creates the impression of a long and tedious day.

hand”  is repeated five times signifying its importance in farm work; a farm hand, essential for his existence.  He is no longer useful – He saw all spoiled”.
They or there is
repeated four times.  “They”, is not us; it is the others who are cold, callous, unsympathetic…

Anonymity:  The persona or addressor is present creating immediacy, yet anonymous.  The “they, them, their could be family, relatives, friends, neighbours..

Contrast/Juxtaposition:    The idyllic, rustic scenery with the five mountain ranges, and sweet scented stuff  with the jarring discordant and disharmony represented by the buzzing, snarling and rattling of the mechanical saw.

Caring or empathy  with the precipitous manner in which they turned to their affairs.


A representative poem that derives its appeal due to the death of a young man and its gravitas from the allusion to MacBeth’s Soliloquy.

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