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A lot of the texts I studied focussed on themes such as hopes, places and freedom, however I chose to direct my study towards loss. In a lot of the texts, I realised that the writer conveyed loss in different ways. For example, in The Necklace, Mathilde at first thinks of the loss of the necklace in a materialistic way, but the “grindingly horrible life of the very poor” to repay for it, conveys the irony of Mme. Loisel losing her youth and beauty which she cared so much for.
For my assignment on loss, I chose the poem ‘Out, Out-‘, about a boy who loses his hand. This story made an impact on me, because of the tragedy of a young boy dying. The way in which the family ‘turned to their affairs’ – out of necessity – after the death of the boy shocked me, and made me want to write about it. Furthermore, I realised that the reason for this shock, was in part because of the sibilance of ‘Sweet-scented stuff’, which made me feel a false sense of security.
I contrasted this to another poem, Disabled. I found the way in which the man is treated by others to be compelling, and made me think about the reasons why the characters in ‘Out, Out-‘ didn’t think about the loss, when compared to in Disabled. Another reason why I was interested in writing about these texts, is how the scenarios differed – one set in a city during World War I, and the other is set in a rural area, where it was vital for everyone to pull their weight. I felt that this influenced the way in which the characters behaved.
Essay:
Both Disabled and ‘Out, Out -‘ convey the theme of loss in different ways. Disabled is a poem with a protagonist who fights in World War I. He loses legs, and one forearm – however the social loss is conveyed as being as detrimental, if not more, than the physical loss. On the other hand, ‘Out, Out -‘ conveys loss in a more utilitarian way. The boy and his family are more concerned about how the injury will affect his usefulness, than the emotional loss.
The title ‘Out, Out -‘ is a quote from Macbeth’s soliloquy, when he finds out about his wife’s suicide. Macbeth is comparing the death to a candle, and how it can be blown away in seconds. It is a reminder to the reader that life is fragile and insignificant. The reference also alludes to how Macbeth responds to the loss – he does not show much emotion, and is instead focused on the task ahead, of battling the English army. This sets a dark tone for the poem. Furthermore, it foreshadows the family’s response to the death of the boy – they “turned to their affairs” after he dies. The use of a similar sentiment, about how life is vulnerable and meaningless – so we should not spend too much time caring about death – emphasises that the loss of life is inevitable.
“Disabled” clearly describes to the reader the physical condition of a character in the poem. The imagery further conveys what the man has lost in the war in the first line – “sat in a wheeled chair”. Both of these have negative connotations, and create an image of an old man in a hospital in the reader’s mind. In the first stanza, the man also hears “Voices of boys rang saddening like a hymn”. Hymns are usually happy songs about God, however the soldier sees them as saddening. This could suggest that he has lost his faith in religion, during his time in the army. Furthermore, the use of “boys” implies that he is not a boy, emphasising the image of an old man. The physical and mental loss is made very clear in the first stanza.
Robert Frost presents the loss of the child’s life in a very sudden way, by making the reader feel a false sense of security. At the beginning of the poem, the poet writes “Sweet-scented stuff”, and uses sibilance to create a secure and safe atmosphere. Furthermore, the use of iambic pentameter in lines 29-31 represent the boy’s heartbeat, and suggests to the reader that the boy will survive the accident. Therefore, when the boy does die, the reader may feel more shocked, to emphasise the sadness of an innocent a child’s death. The use of dashes to separate “Little-less-nothing!-” may also symbolise the boys heartbeat, as they slow down, and seem to become further and further apart, until it stops – with another long pause due to the exclamation mark and a dash. Within the short sentence, the boy has died, which makes it even more sudden, and gives the reader less time to realise that the accident was fatal.
The loss of attention from women is conveyed as being significant to the soldier in “Disabled”. The fact that they treat him as if he has “some queer disease”, shows that he is alienated by them. “queer” was commonly used to refer to people who were homosexual during the period in which the poem is set, which suggests that the women are not interested in him, because they believe that he does not have interest in them. This is a contrast to the one of the reasons for him joining the army in the first place – “to please his Meg” – because this clearly shows that he is heterosexual. Furthermore, it signifies how much he values the attention of girls. This is used to emphasise how much he has lost due to his physical condition caused by the war. It portrays women in a negative way, suggesting that they are very superficial, because they only cared for him due to his physical appearance, and once that had changed, they did not care at all.

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