How does Owen and Frost present personal tragedy in Disabled and Out?

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"Disabled" and "Out, Out" are both poems that share a key theme, which is a personal tragedy. In the poem "Disabled", Wilfred Owen describes the life of a war veteran who has suffered both mental and physical anguish and whose perspective has transformed as a result of his experiences, which have ultimately caused his transition from a youthful child to an elderly man. "Out, Out" describes a child labourer who notably wounds himself by accidentally sawing off his arm, resulting in his personal tragic death.

The title of Frost's poem references the soliloquy in Shakespeare's Macbeth "Out, out, brief candle!" which compares the brutality of life to that of an extinguishable candle and how one insignificant moment can completely alter it. Likewise, both poems evoke a sense of pathos from the reader by highlighting mankind's tendency to exploit the weakest and disregard the achievements of the greatest.

Both "Out, Out" and "Disabled" portray personal tragedy in different ways. Owen's "Disabled" provides us with an introspective overview of a soldier's tragedy.

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The poem explores the difference in the young man's lifestyle before and after his experience of war, and the effects of war on those who live through it by comparing the present life of an injured soldier to his past hopes and accomplishments. He juxtaposes the past with the present, the soldier's expectations: "jewelled hilts for daggers in plaid socks; of smart salutes;" with the reality, in which "he is old;(and) his back will never brace." In such a way, contradictory language is employed to contrast the soldier's preconceptions of war, which were responsible for his enlistments with its reality.

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The personal tragedy the soldier suffers is described as a long tern struggle due to his disabilities. Furthermore, the theme of tragedy is further enhanced with the repetition of the third person- "he" to emphasise the soldier's suffering. After the boy has died the poem emphasises that the people of the community return to their daily lives, since they were not dead, they returned to their affairs. Frost blames the bystanders for the boy's death and ultimately conveys the message how unpredictable death can be. The indifference shown by the bystanders is similar to the disinterest shown in "Disabled". Tragedy is presented as being personal as it affects the individual but as a negative impact on the bystanders.

Frost begins the poem "Out, Out" in a cordial open setting where it is peaceful as nobody would expect such tragedy to occur there. Frost describes the smell of the freshly chopped wood "Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it". This illustrates an attractive and yet again peaceful scene. In contrast to this frost depicts the personification "snarl" and "buzz saw" as "alive". The couple "snarled and rattled" are both expressive words that have negative connotations that the buzz saw is nefarious in some sense. In addition to this "rattled" is an onomatopoeia in which shows how boisterous the machine is. The imagery makes the reader evoke sympathy for the boy as the boy's life is almost over. We see in both poems that the two young boys are trying to be men-joining the army or cutting down logs with a saw but do not succeed.

Owen begins his poem with the depressing description of a lone man sitting in a wheelchair in a park being unable to walk or indulge in any of the activities involving exercise going around him. He is dressed formally in his "suit of grey" cut at the waist. This emphasises the tone of depression and depicts that's he has lost his legs and he wait helplessly listening to the voices of young children which saddens him as they remind him of something he missed out on and can never have again. The poem consists of a breakdown of sentences which reflects upon him losing his legs but more importantly the breakdown of his personal life. It is quite tragic how he used to have fun playing football and picking up girls to no one going near him as if it was a "queer disease". "elbows" refers to a physical thing he no longer has which are his arms and legs which link into "his ghastly suit of grey" this may imply that the soldier is waiting for his life to end, "ghastly suits" symbolise a loss of life. The hopelessness and personal tragedy put him in a frantic mood since he used to enjoy the feeling of "slim girls" waists are" but now "women's eyes passed from him to the strong men that were whole". This shows that women now disregard him and treat him differently to how he was in his childhood.

Both poems emphasise the youthfulness of the victims. "Out, Out" makes several references to the fact that he is just a "boy". "To please the boy by giving him the half hour". This shows us that he is a "boy" who wants a break from all his hard work and wants to have fun and relax. "Disabled" on the other hand differs as he wasn't called a "boy" but referred to as "youth". "For it was younger than his youth". Both poems show their personal tragedy of how these young men lost their future opportunities. The soldier feels regretful as his life is now meaningless due to his foolish behaviour of going to war underage.

It is tragic that the soldier seems to feel quite regretful after he returned from war which is ironic as he was determined to join the army by a "meg" who happened to say, "he look'd good in kilts". Owen shows the vast disparity between a young favoured man who caught the eyes of women and an old crippled man who was disregarded.

To conclude, both "Out, Out" and "Disabled" share similar atmospheres, with Frost proving anger within the boy's family who neglect him after his death, however "Disabled" uses pathos to show the contrast between the past and the present where his life was once all joy and happiness. Frost criticizes the harsh nature of humanity, both poems present tragedy as having a singular impact. Ultimately both poems emphasise the tragedy as something that the community are unable to handle and lack empathy to those who have fallen.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022

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How does Owen and Frost present personal tragedy in Disabled and Out?. (2019, Nov 22). Retrieved from

How does Owen and Frost present personal tragedy in Disabled and Out? essay
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