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Harshness of Life Essay

Thomas and Frost have both written poems about the harshness of life. Compare and contrast two poems, one by each poet, taking account of the situation and tones of the speakers, and the form, structure and language including imagery, which each poet uses to present the theme of the harshness of life in two poems you have studied. Frost and Thomas both write about the harshness of life in their poetry. I believe the poems “Out, Out” by Frost and “The Owl” by Thomas best illustrate this.

Frost choosing to show this through the impact of a hard days work on a little boy whereas Thomas uses an owl’s cry to connect the lifes of a solider and the poor/homeless to show the similarity in their lives. Both poets emphasise the same theme but their techniques differ to present this. The title “Out,Out” has an ominous tone to it, the title is a quote that Frost has used from Macbeth, “Out, damned spot, out”, this is in reference to the scene where Lady Macbeth dies. From the very beginning of the poem, Frost has set a menacing, almost tormenting tone eminently refering to the harsness of life.

In comparision, we look at Thomas’s title “The Owl”. Owls are known to be solitary animals, many cultures, for example the Africans and the Middle East, believe that owls are harbingers of death or bad omens. Both poets have used their titles to immediatley engage the reader into the theme of the poem. Frost use of blank verse gives the poem more freedom within his lexical field, blank verse also gives Frost’s poem a matter of fact tone to it, “Call it a day, I wish they might have said” within the language used by Frost a sense is evoked that the day is an ordinary experience.

Within the same lines we are given the inevitability of the boys death, this line is almost a plea for mercy automatically concentrating on the foreboding tragedy. Similarily Thomas uses simplistic language in a narrative tone to show the reflections of the speaker. Thomas’s “The Owl” has casual ryhtm to it, the use of abcb lines keeps the flow of the poem conversational and effectively keeps the reader interested through the ease of reading. While both poets differ in methods, Thomas using four lined stanza’s in contrast to the blank verse of Frost, each depicts the theme strongly.

Frosts use of imagery in the rural setting, “five mountain ranges” creates a sense of insignifance to the boys misfortune of losing his hand. With gentle imagery at the beginning of his poem, “Under the sunset far into Vermont”, the unpredictability of the accident only further highlights the harshness of life. The personification used with the saw, “leaped out of the boys hand”, emphasises the horror of the tradgey. Within the phrase “big boy Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart”, Frost chooses to show us how the gruesomeness and strain of the boys accident could easily have been avoided if he carried out an average little boys life.

Thomas’s description of the setting differs from Frost’s approach. Thomas, from the beginning sets a tone of desperation with the speakers state, “hungry”, “cold”, “tired”. The bleak tone of the poem gives a sense of reflection within the speaker. Thomas uses the owl’s cry to maintain the theme, with his repitition of sound and syllables “no merry note, nor cause of merriment”, he highlights once more the harshness of life.


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