Life is short. This is a well known fact, and the poem, “Out, Out-” by Robert Frost poignantly highlights this issue with its vivid depiction of the death of a boy. The boy, operating a buzz saw and working to slice trees, suffers a tragic accident in front of his sister, who is telling him “[s]upper,” in which his hand is severed; he later dies from blood loss. Then life resumes as normal. From this poem, it can be seen that life is but a fleeting moment, a summary of trifles that, upon the mortal precipice, cannot escape oblivion. Memories are lost, and experiences forgotten. This is depicted using combinations of literary devices: contrast by imagery, metaphor with personification, and rhythm effected with punctuation.
Firstly, the imagery at the beginning of the poem, from lines 1 through 7, depicts the cacophonous, chaotic noise of the buzz saw in stark contrast to the beauty of life and the pleasant order of nature in the yard; this contrast appeals to the senses of sight, sound, and smell, and, by emphasizing the destructive and harmful nature of the saw (here, set in the context of logging, the means by which the trees are felled, and cutting, in which the boy is fragmenting the remains of former trees), sets the atmosphere for the tragedy to come, the death of the boy. This is relevant to the theme that life is but a fleeting moment, because the “living” portion of this passage, lines 2 through 6, is closed off by the chaos and death of the trees, as is implied by the sounds of a buzz saw as it is cutting tree trunks in lines 1 and 7, suggesting how the natural life is always bound within limits; a range of five lines is not a long period of time for life, and is, compared to the 35 total lines of the poem, a particularly limited span. Furthermore, line 2 describes pleasant scents and winds and lines 5 and 6 describe the pleasant sunset in the mountain range, but these, compared to eternal time, are mere trifles that do not amount to much of meaning after the death of the boy, which will happen sooner rather than later, after which his memories of these aspects also vanish. Therefore, it can be said that life is a brief period of experiences that, upon the threshold of death, dissipate and are lost forever.
The personification of the buzz saw on line 15, when it leapt out of the boy’s hand to sever his hand to “prove saws knew what supper meant,” indicates how the saw, as a seemingly starved entity that simply “leaps” at the opportunity to feed upon its “supper,” ultimately caused the boy’s death, as he died from the wound. This personification serves to convey the underlying metaphor more effectively. The fact that the hand is implied to be the “supper” for the saw, and the hand’s position as a crucial part of the boy’s body, indicates that the saw, by removing the boy’s hand, was also destroying the boy as a whole human being, not only by defacing his physical self but also especially by the termination of his life. Therefore, the saw can be said to have consumed, although not necessarily for its own growth and development, the hand and, thus, the boy’s life, like a boy to his supper; simply, it is gone. A supper is a meal with a short timespan, having a limited duration within its definite beginning and end; the boy’s life, or its metaphorical representation, the supper, is also ended and its nuances are forever lost as they are devoured by oblivion and never heard from again.
The use of rhythm in line 33 affects the meaning of “Little—less—nothing!—and that ended it” in multiple ways with regards to the life and death of the boy. For one, the use of em dashes does not slow the rhythm of the poem significantly (not as much as would the use of periods), yet it preserves a deliberate sequence of decay in the boy’s life as he fades from existence. This suggests that life quickly disappears, as represented by