Discuss Frost’s Attitudes Towards Nature and People in ‘Out Out-‘, ‘Two Tramps in Mud Time’ and in ‘Mending Wall’
‘Out Out-‘, ‘Two Tramps in Mud Time’ and ‘Mending Wall’ by Robert Frost are all alike in that they portray a strong outlook towards nature and people. Using different linguistic and literary techniques, Frost is able to deliver his attitudes and values soundly and captivatingly to his audience. ‘Out Out-‘, with a title taken from an extract from Shakespeare’s Macbeth and written in Blank Verse, tells a story of how a young boy has an accident with a buzz saw.
Frost begins the poem by introducing the saw, using personification to describe the sound it mades, likening it to an angry snake as it ‘snarled’ and ‘rattled’. This makes the man-made tool sound evil and corrupt, especially as it is used to chop up trees to ‘stove-length sticks of wood’. Frost’s fierce passion and protection for nature becomes obvious here, even within the first two lines of the poem.
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As the trees, a dominant part of nature in the outside world, are chopped by the saw, Frost contracts his vivid, wicked description of the saw with positive detail about the wood, calling it ‘sweet-scented’. He also uses non-fluency features here, such as the repetition of ‘the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled’, which makes his thoughts on the evil of the saw destructing nature more forceful and intense. Such a contrast is a definite characteristic to the work of Robert Frost, emphasizing his love for the natural world and his oppositely apathetic attitudes to mankind.
Sibilance can be seen also in the first few lines of this poem. Sibilance, a literary term referring to the repetition of the consonant ‘s’, makes the nature aspect of these lines sound soft and almost delicate, portraying Frost’s tenderness towards nature even further- ‘made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood, sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it’. He describes the setting of the story in a beautiful, more traditional way, and depicts the sun setting over the peaks of five mountains.
He uses appeal to the senses also here, explaining the smell of ‘sweet-scented’ wood, the sight of the sunset and the ‘five mountain ranges one behind another’, and the sounds of the ‘rattling’ buzz saw. All of these techniques help to build up the scene, and to introduce at this early stage Frost’s tender feelings towards nature. Especially towards the end of the poem, Frost’s attitudes towards people and society are made obvious. After this beautiful description of the surrounding setting- ‘Under the sunset far into Vermont’, Frost suddenly turns the poem around with the line ‘And nothing happened: day was all but done’.
Reverting the peaceful tone, the poem now sounds tense and edgy, foreshadowing the upcoming tragedy. As the boy’s sister calls him to ‘Supper’, the boy is distracted and loses control of the saw as it cuts into his hand. Frost uses a metonymy, in which a figure of speech that uses a concept closely related to what is actually meant is used, making the analogy more vivid and meaningful- ‘Holding up his hand… as if to keep the life from spilling’. This shows Frost’s attitude towards people and life.
By just cutting open his hand, the boy is losing not only blood but his actual life too, showing that Frost values life and sees it as very precious. This is contrasted, however, in the next lines of the poem as Frost goes on to make a mockery out of people and their views on life as compared to his own views on life. Frightened that the doctor will have to amputate his hand, the young boy pleads with his sister to not let the doctor amputate his hand. Frost ridicules people’s lack of sympathy towards death here.
When the young boy cuts open his hand, he gives out a ‘rueful laugh’, rather than screaming out in pain, which is rather ironic. The tone of the poem is completely lowered, and from the first stanza of ‘sweet-smelling stuff’, the mood is now darkened as the very graphic image of the boys death is told. The doctor puts the young boy to sleep under anaesthetic, but drastically the boy does not wake up. The boy is no longer of use to the people- ‘no more to build on there’, which shows Frost’s view that people take advantage of each other, and are cold and heartless when it comes to death.
The poem finishes with the line ‘And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs’. This cuts the poem of curtly, showing Frost’s view that people only really care for themselves, and again shows society’s pitilessness towards death and tragedy. Mending Wall also portrays a negative attitude towards people, yet a more positive one towards nature. The poem tells of how Frost and his neighbour mend the wall separating their plots of land every year, and of the sadness this brings the Frost.
Mending Wall is a very conversational and reflective poem, including many ideas and attitudes from Frost, which are especially made evident as the poem is written in the first person. The poem, unlike ‘Out Out-‘, is not divided into stanzas, and contains a large extent of the conjunctive word ‘and’ as this also adds to the conversational style, showing how many ideas and thoughts Frost has on this subject. The poem beings with the line ‘Something there is that doesn’t love a wall’.
It is unclear who or what this ‘something’ is referring to, adding a slight mysterious slant to the poem. Rather than except the logical explanation of the wall being damaged by hunters, Frost instead explains that it must be nature at work, trying to destroy the wall as it, like Frost but unlike the neighbour, realises how wrong having a wall is. The line ‘Sends the frozen-ground-swell under it’ gives the idea that frost is why the wall becomes damaged and cracked.
This shows Frost’s attitude towards nature, in that nature realises the wall is pointless and unnecessarily divides the two men, and tries to resolve the problem, once again reflecting Frost’s fondness towards nature. It contracts with the neighbour, as although the neighbour as a human being is supposed to be intelligent, Frost sees the nature as more intelligent in that it understands the ridiculousness of the wall, as Frost does.