Compare and Contrast How the Meaning of Life is Explored

“Out,out” is originated from Shakespeare’s Macbeth which says that “Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow. ” Shakespeare metaphorically describes life as in a shadow which emphasizes his idea that life is short and lack of true meaning as “shadow” goes away as soon as it appears. The poem “Out, out” written by Robert Frost tells a story of a young boy who accidentally cuts his hands off which leads him to death. It is written in only one stanza implying that the boy’s life is short and brief, there is no division and only childhood.

There is no obvious rhyme which suggests that everything is unpredictable and accidents can occur at any time. We as readers follow the event in “the real time” as one stanza makes the piece actual and intense. In contrast, Wilfred Owen’s poem “Disabled” portrays a tragedy that a soldier who gets to fight for war as he aims to win the pride gets sent home due to the heavy injury.

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Similarly, the poem also does not have a clear rhyme pattern which proposes that the soldier’s life does not have a clear structure and the irregular shape of the stanza due to the unequal length looks like his incomplete body. The dramatic contrast between the attitude people treat him before and after the injury from friendly to vile is beautifully depicted as well.

Both the boy and the soldier have a strong desire to be successful in order to have a better social statues as they live with a sort of harmonious lifestyle.

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In “Out,out”, Frost uses sibilance in the phrase “sweet-scented stuff” which brings a soft and smooth sound suggesting how peaceful life is. As the “sunset” moves to “Vermont”, the idyllic and perfect environment that the boy lives with is explored which creates imagery and a sense of harmony. Then the poem says “I wish they might have said//To please the boy by giving him the half hour//That boy counts so much when saved from work” which denotes that this boy has a solid work ethic that he does not even want to give up his break time. The imperative and first person narrative used in the phrase “I wish” as it speaks directly to readers alludes the future incident and how profoundly Frost does not want it to happen. For the boy, it appears as if trying to work hard through everything progressively and live in an ideal life might be the aim of his life. In comparison, the character in “Disabled” is more ambitious that he does not want to be a normal guy working for his whole life but to fight for his country instead. He lives in a “town that used to swing so gay”, the past tense used implies that he used to live happily that he could go out and enjoy the life with other boys and girls. His appearance is beautifully depicted as “an artist silly” which is very strong and descriptive demonstrating that even artists want to make a portrait for him. It therefore represents that he was really handsome and charming as Owen makes a comparison saying that “for it was younger than his youth.” It is also mentioned that the soldier wants to “please his Meg” as most women wish and support their husbands to fight for war and win prizes in the wartime. It seems that sacrifice is such a holy and glorious thing as it proves that the soldiers’ heart is devoted to the country which amplifies lives’ meaning as in protecting country and fighting for peace.

In “Out,out”, the manner that the boy has towards challenges in life is completely different from the soldier described in “Disabled”. When the boy’s “sister” comes in and tells him that it is “supper” time, “the saw, as if to prove saws knew what supper meant,// Leaped out at the boy’s hand.” The personification used indicates that the saw has its own life making the accident more sinister which evokes readers empathy as innocence is perfectly shown. The verb “leaped” also creates a strong sense of energy, movement and momentum alluding that the saw will cause a heavy accident. Furthermore, when the accident actually occurs, the boy’s initial reaction is just simply a “rueful laugh” which is obvious that he does not realise how serious this will be. He attempts “as if to keep// The life from spilling”, the metaphor proposes that he is trying to save his life on his own and it foregrounds death. Even though it seems tough for him to get away from the saw, he still tries to help himself by saying “Don’t let him cut my hand off-“, “Don’t let him, sister!” The exclamation and direct speech suggest that he is so desperate that he has an extremely strong will to stay alive which is highly sympathetic. In opposite to this, the soldier in “Disabled” after the injury gives up his life but chooses “waiting for dark” instead. The word “dark” is a metaphor of death which explores his bleak manner. The main reason that causes this can be explained as “he noticed how the women’s eyes// passed from him to the strong men that were whole” which develops the idea that he has lost his masculinity due to the injury and he will never get noticed by women because he is not “whole” which is tragic. It also tells that he is ready to “spend a few sick years in Institutes” which proves that he becomes awfully pessimistic and hopeless as he believes his life lacks meaning. Owen therefore expresses his sympathy towards the soldier as he suffers from the unfortunate treatment and it feels like a pity due to the fact that no one respects and cares about him. The way these two characters have in order to deal with troubles is distinct, the boy at least chooses to fight and attamptations are at least being made whereas the soldier just gives up because he loses hope which implies that the meaning of his life is fading away.


Both poems have made readers understand how the society leave the “useless” people behind and never take care about them. In “Out,out”, Frost firstly depicts the circumstance that the boy works alone with a “saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled.” The use of zoomorphism makes the saw looking like a predator that has the potential to injure the boy. This vivid description suddenly makes the scene no longer looking tranquil, instead it creates a clear image that stands out of mind as the tension rises and a sense of danger appears. The saw spins crazily as the repetition emulates the powerful movement of saw.

In conclusion, both poems have illustrated some unique ideas about youth and physical impairment which also links to the emotional suffering. Life is short and fragile, what actually matters is how people treat their lives and if they choose to fight for the last bit like the boy in “Out,out” or if they just stay decadent and disorganised like the soldier in “Disabled”. Nevertheless, there are also some different points made between two poems. “Out,out” seems more like to suggest a sense of sympathy that impared soldier somehow did not get respected but instead prejudiced by other people which feels like a shame. In contrast, “Disabled” expands the point that young man loses life at an early age during the World War because things are always unpredictable and the war is brutal and ruthless. Hence why people are expected to cherish the time and make more contributions to help the world in the halcyon age, because that exhibits the real meaning of life.

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Compare and Contrast How the Meaning of Life is Explored. (2019, Dec 03). Retrieved from

Compare and Contrast How the Meaning of Life is Explored

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