Compare and contrast the different moods and themes created in ‘Out, Out-‘ and ‘Disabled’


In ‘Disabled’, Wilfred Owen a war veteran tells the story of a young soldier who returns from war and realizes how dissimilar his old life is to his new ne where he is disabled both mentally and physically despite the fact that his mind may seem unaffected by past traumas the reader will begin to understand the subtle hurts that have slowly damaged him. In contrast, the story of ‘Out, out-‘ is of a boy completing his everyday chores, sawing wood, in the backdrop of the Vermont mountains. He accidentally cuts his hand off and he succumbs to death despite a doctor’s aid. Robert Frost’s poem on the human condition and the short life span doomed for all humans is similar to Owen’s ‘Disabled’ in that the point that one apparently small decision has the ability to affect and have an enormous influence on that person’s identity and life. The soldier’s choice to enlist for the war then caused him to lose a leg and impacted him so drastically that he now views the world differently moreover the vividness of his former life has drained away ‘down shell-holes’ and his experiences are thus dull and meaningless. Whereas, in ‘Out, out-‘ the poem’s continuity also generates the effect of sudden death with the normal day to day routine of the boy serving to further intensify death’s wiliness and how it can come to you when least expected. The nostalgia and sadness for the lost childhood and innocence that the boy and soldier had thrown away is, furthermore, a key characteristic of the two poems and instill and sense of melancholy and pity in the reader. The world’s indifference present at the boy’s death and the soldier’s deformities display to the reader how humans are more inclined to abhor the different and to ignore the tragic. The soldier’s life has radically been altered as well as his perception of life while the boy’s gruesome death is distinguished from the calm setting where his innocence is lost and his life is damaged. Owen’s and Frost’s exploration of the pathos evoked and relayed to the reader for the child and the soldier’s wrong opinion on war emphasizes the reader’s experiences as well. The soldier’s expectation are let down and he loses his former life. Therefore he asks himself the eternal question for he has nothing else left to live for only waiting ‘Why don’t they come and put him to bed? Why don’t they come?’


The pathos induced in the reader at the child’s unexpected death and the soldier’s erroneous assumption that war glorious is a prime feature of both ‘Disabled’ and ‘Out, out’ The soldier had believed that war would be magnificent but he however returns home unheroic and shunned by other ‘whole’ people. His perception of life and his view of war have been affected radically by his wrong choice. The young soldier had initially been caught up in an elaborate dream with ‘jeweled hilts for daggers in plaid socks’ and also of ‘smart salutes, and care of arms; and leave; and pay arrears.’ And yet, as he comes to understand, these are all illusions he managed to trick and commit his self to. The wonderful war image that he had formed in his childhood is soon changed and his high hopes contrast with the short, blunt reality where he will ‘spend a few sick years in Institutes, and do what the rules consider wise’. We, as the audience, feel pity and sympathy for him as his anticipation is let down and he is ultimately disappointed. Furthermore, there is a shocking realization that all he had held true as a child when he ‘liked a blood smear down his leg’ and ‘thought he’d better join’ was proved to be wrong by his experiences and the reader feels the urge to give him some small measure of comfort that he is deprived of now due to his deformities and he ‘noticed how the women’s eyes passed fro him to the strong men that were whole.’


Similarly, in ‘Out, out’ the reader feels pathos at the painful way the child must have died. The saw ‘as if to prove saws knew what supper meant, leapt out at the boy’s hand’ This is an example of vivid imagery that enables us to feel the events occurring and to comprehend all of the emotions and sensory overload in the scene, and thus we suffer along with the child as well. Some foreshadowing of his death is evident in the repetition of ‘snarled and rattled’ hinting at the imminent death and also the pain that will be experienced, which produces a more intense reaction from the reader, who feels a measure of grief and sympathy when they realize something and is about to occur whereas, ironically, the boy is still unknowingly completing his normal routine, unsuspecting. His terrified, angry and panicky voice when he screams ‘Don’t let him sister!’, in addition makes he reader feel increased empathy and pity for his plight. As he to such an extent that he is unable to organize his thought and feels pure terror.  He will lose his family as well as miss out on all the beautiful things in life that he yet to understand and feel –such as the calm vista at the start of the poem and all the ‘;sweet scented stuff’ as well as the ‘five mountain ranges…. Under the sunset far into Vermont’. The persona’s strength of feeling and compassion, that he wished they might have ‘called it a day…to please the boy’ deepens and intensifies the regret and wretchedness of the scene because it suggests that I the day had ended early then the boy might not have died so brutally. The melancholy and longing for what could have been is highlighted and this makes the death the most poignant moment of the poem.


The pleading and beseeching manner of the boy in ‘Out out’ when he ‘swung toward them holding up the hand half in appeal but half as if to keep the life from spilling’ augments the desperate atmosphere and instills pathos . In addition the persona is speaking directly to the audience in ‘I wish’ and this implies that the loss was also personal. This special and particular touch serves to make to boy seem much closer to us and we begin to know and understand his person. This manages to involve us and by doing this thus makes the boy’s death seem even more tragic.


In ‘Out, out’ the boy’s feelings are mainly dominated by desperation whereas in ‘Disabled’ the soldier undergoes a period of regret and remorse as he knows that the reasons he had for enlisting in the army were foolish and naïve. His choice was influenced by ‘someone saying he’d look a god in kilts’ and to ‘please his Meg’. We gain the impression that his mind is still reeling from his experiences hence the disorganized and chaotic thoughts and his disability. The war had caused him damage both psychologically and physically and this evokes pathos as well. For instead of just disabling his motor functions his mind, in which he had conjured all those dreams has also been affected so now it can no longer dream those dreams when he had ‘no fears of Fear’ and was ‘drafted out with drums and cheers.’ Moreover there is a more personal feel in his reminiscences as he takes the audience into his past and now to his present, he is talking to the reader and has accepted us into his mind therefore we experience a close connection with him despite the poem being in third person and we are watching through a third person observer. The opening of ‘Disabled’ establishes a gloomy pathos and the apparent emptiness and lack of vitality in his life is a repetitive routine that he can not escape from. He is lethargically ‘waiting for dark’, this imbues a sensation of loneliness as well as sympathy when people treat him in degrading and insulting ways despite his deformities thus making the moment one of the more remorseful and regretful of both poems. In addition, the enjambment again accentuates the longevity and meaninglessness of his never ending days.


The structure of ‘Out out’ has no stanzas unlike ;Disabled’ and this produces a continuous experience throughout the poem therefore accentuating the fact that life is short whereas death is unexpected and the reader has no time to absorb everything in as events are very suddenly and quickly over. Furthermore, the polysendeton also creates a list as if everything in the boy’s life is a routine and he knows what he will do and is to be expected. On the other hand, this highlights the abruptness of his death and how it came when he was unsuspecting and unwary of the dangers that have eluded him thus far. The beautiful ‘sunset far in to Vermont’ where the poem is set is eternal unlike the short life doomed for all humans. The ‘spilling’ of his life suggests fragility, which is so easy to lose. Moreover, when the boy ‘holds up the hand half in appeal’ entails that his life is running away from him and escaping his grasp.

The soldiers question ‘Why don’t they come?’ in ‘Disabled’ echoes his questioning of the choices he made in his life. The boy whom the soldier used to be ‘liked a blood smear down his leg’ and ‘after football… drunk a peg’ implying naivety and that he is unaware of the realities of war. This impression has always been with him but soon alters severely as he witnesses true warfare. When he threw away his knees’ he shows the reader his disregard and lack of appreciation for life and now he has forfeited it for a foolish decision ‘to please his Meg’


Life’s brevity and fragility, and that it can be lost so easily without thinking is additionally a characteristic of both poems. There is a tone of regret and shock as death is unexpected or in the soldier’s case, one decision can have a profound effect upon his whole life as he discovers after the war. The pace abruptly slows down in ‘Out, out’ ‘and nothing happened: day was all but done’ and ‘called in a day, I wish they might have said’ as the day is concluding and this insinuates an unpredictable death and the fact that anything can happen for when we are doing the most normal of routines and when we are going through a slow monotonous pace is when we, including the boy, let our guards down and expect nothing different from the norm to occur. ‘So’ a monosyllable further slows down the pace as well. The boy is slowly dying and yet is helpless to stop events from happening as what he wants and desires is irrelevant despite his cries to ‘Don’t let him cut my hand off, sister!’ he still eventually loses not only his hand but also his life and the ‘hand was gone already.’ To the reader this reflects how short the boy’s life was and its fragility creating a mood of regret ad sadness. The briefness of his life is also emphasized by the pauses ‘-‘ which results in the reader feeling more connected with events in the poem as the impression is given that the boy’s views and sufferings are also channeled through to us not only as the observer but as if we were there experiencing his chaotic thoughts and pains. This, in addition, also makes the scene more emotional and chocking as we get the sense that his life is slowly slipping away and we are powerless to prevent it. The boy’s chores, sawing wood, displays normalcy and of routine and due to the rhythm’s constant and repetitive style it highlights the suddenness of the impending death.


This suddenness is similar to ‘Disabled’ where the soldier is just ‘legless’ this constitutes a very blunt and brute fact without elaborating on it so the reader is shocked and distresses by the harshness of the soldier’s reality. Moreover he is surrounded by ‘voices of play and pleasures’ this replicates the happiness, innocence and carefree life he used to live, one that held no worries nor expectations or pity. He now regrets his decision to enlist and his glorious and high expectations contrast to the brevity of his decision where ‘he asked to join. He didn’t have to beg.’ This in turn reflects how fragile his life is, that ‘half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race’ that he ‘poured it down shell-holes till the veins ran dry’ and ‘a leap of purple spurted from his thigh.’


Nostalgia for the lost childhood that both the boy and soldier had thrown away is a sense that runs throughout both ‘Disabled’ and ‘Out out’. A melancholy atmosphere of pity is also formed . The boy’s perception of the world in ‘Out, out’ ‘since he was old enough to know, big boy doing a man’s work’ gives the impression that he is prematurely old. Furthermore, both characters have experienced things that children should not be forced to witness and this produces a sad tone to the poems as we grieve for their lost innocence and childhood. The things that the soldier will never get to experience again such as ‘girls’ waists’ and ‘warm subtle hands’ are only fragments and memories from his past and former life before the war. Regret is a dominant emotion in the second stanza as the naïve nature of boys is something he can not become anymore. His life is missing that ‘warm’ element and this imprints nostalgia in both the reader and himself as he is longing for his past that he can no longer relive. ‘Now he is old’ and ‘his back will never brace’ suggests he is psychologically aged from his knowledge and familiarity with real warfare. The certainty of the tone finalizes the situation and thus the soldier has come to accept his predicament. ‘Half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race’ insinuating that all the wasted time spent in war when he could have been enjoying and fulfilling his potential in life was thrown away by one foolish decision. The pause in stanza four also slows down the pace and represents realization. Before the war the soldier’s life was hectic, vivid and fast now  he has all the time to reevaluate and rethink his ideals and views with the second stanza, consisting mainly of happiness, symbolizing the better times he and when he was a courageous, young and risk taking boy.


In ‘Out, out’ the repetition of ‘boy’ emphasizes the young age and also the fact that he can never come to fully understand and comprehend the beauty of childhood. The vista seen in the first few lines can be compared to an image of potential to the reader, how the boy’s life would have been if he had not died. This intensifies the melancholy atmosphere and the tragedy of the death. He ‘was a child at heart’ but doing ‘a man’s work’ this hints that he is too young to be doing these chores. The persona imbues regretful quality because if only the boy had been let off work early then his life might not have been snuffed out so quickly and easily. The boy is too young to die and he has not had a chance to see and enjoy life to its fullest yet.


The reader furthermore, experiences and witnesses the indifference, apathy and harshness of the world towards the boy and the soldier in both poems. The boy’s death is seen as insignificant and thus is ignored almost immediately and the soldier’s disability causes society to reject him. The soldier in ‘Disabled’ is prepared to take ‘any pity they may dole’ signifying that he is not reacted to as a war hero but rather people feel sorry and shamed for him that he has lost part of his body and is no longer ‘whole.’ These people ‘touch him like some queer disease’ as he is hindered in mobility by his injuries and others tend to shy away from him instead of comforting and encouraging him. The young soldier now comes to understand the fact that war is inglorious and that the ones who were not affected, do not care about his former great hopes and dreams before the war. There is bathos as he was let down and disappointed with himself for believing in an illusion and thus changing his life.


In ‘Out out’ the child is merely referred to as ‘boy’ and not by name suggesting his apparent unimportance to others and that he ahs no identity-nothing to make him unique and memorable. The last line in the poem ‘and since they were not the ones dead, turned to their own affairs’ lacks any emotions one would expect to feel after a death of a family member but instead, carries a neutral tone. This implies that the death does not matter even to those the boy himself held dearest. A gruesome sensory image is present in the poem when the ‘saw leaped out at the boy’s hand’ nevertheless the story still continues with a sense of numbness and indifference with ‘the boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh…but the hand was gone already…and that ended it’ The poem continues the uncaring tone and tells the events concisely without any emotion or feelings included thus gives the impression of a lack of sympathy. His death does not affect anyone else in society and is promptly forgotten as he ahs let nothing behind, no imprint for others to memorize him by. The human condition is portrayed in this poem, insinuating that we are insignificant and that one boy’s death is of no consequence, life still carries on in the same way without his presence-similar to the everlasting scenery of the Vermont Mountains and the enormity of death goes by unnoticed.


The poems have a contrast between past and present. In the soldier’s life his past is vibrant and full of opportunities whereas now he lives a gloomy, dull and meaningless life only waiting for death. His life has been irreparably damaged and has been wasted therefore he can not go back to change his decisions. The soldier is shunned and on the edge of society which contrasts with his former life before the war and what he hoped to achieve, this creates nostalgia. The iambic pentameter makes his life seem monotonous and lacking vigor as he has nothing left to live for. He has no pride and dignity is his disabled body and is regarded as an outcast furthermore, there is irony as what he thought he would get after the war contrasts to the reality of what he received. His life is planned out by others while he can only follow their rules thus he has no control left over his life and his decisions which is what he sued to have. The third stanza reflects his confusion as he is struggling to understand his thoughts and is comparing past to present. Initially he was popular and a sense of flirtatious excitement permeate the atmosphere however now people ignore and reject his presence.


Similarly in ‘Out, out’ the boy’s past could be symbolized by the natural scenery representing his innocence but this peaceful image is soon shattered when realization, when ‘the boy saw all’, comes with death. Moreover, there is a contrast between the peaceful setting and the horrific events taking place which seems ironic. The tranquil and calm scenery and the sensory stimulation ‘sweet scented stuff when the breeze drew across it’ enables the reader to relax however this soon changes with the shocking encounter between the boy and saw when ‘neither refused the meeting.’ The boy’s ‘rueful laugh’ is also an unimaginable way for an injured person to react and yet the reader comprehends that he is still just a boy, and still retains some innocence thus does not understand the complications until later on.


‘Disabled’ shows the reader another contrast between ‘legless’ and ‘blood smear’, this compares the superficial cut with a life changing injury-his past and present. ‘No fears of Fear came yet’ shows to the audience that the soldier had once thought that he was brave and bold however despite this he is actually frightened of being a coward. The war has reminded him that he holds neither of those virtues’ in addition; it has exposed him to the huge amorphous collection of his fears that threaten to overwhelm him. Likewise, he only received sympathy not cheers of celebration which was what he had expected after he had sacrificed himself to serve in the war effort. He is confused after ‘only a solemn man thanked him and inquired about his soul’, his disbelief is emphasized as he had been looking forward to coming back home but received only sadness and pity for his current state. Besides, it contrasts to his earlier personality because in his earlier days he was the one people looked up to and respected, now only one person bothers to pity and feel sorry for the soldier and only one person comes to offer his condolences and sympathies thus representing a great change for the young man and it challenges his earlier view and ideals on life.


In conclusion, the poems’ Disabled’ by Wilfred Owen and ‘Out, out’ by Robert Frost evoke emotions of pathos, regret, nostalgia, sadness and melancholy in the atmosphere and the reader. The soldier’s hopes are dashed and the child’s violent last experience of life creates sorrow and the idea of how brief and fragile life is, is evident in both poems. The reader is overwhelmed and comes to understand the wistfulness and pity the boy and soldier’s lost childhood, freedom and former life and yet also manages to feel how indifferent the world can be towards these tragedies. Overall, ‘Disabled’ conveys the contrast between past and present and evokes pathos more effectively than ‘Out, out’. However ‘Out, out’ succeeds in allowing the reader to comprehend the brevity of life and feel more nostalgic and grief for the boy’s missing childhood and liberty. The effect of the world’s apathy is felt more distinctively in ‘Disabled’ but it is also constituent in ‘Out, out’ hence the boy’s family does not care for his death and the monotonous feel prominent in the poem is able to manipulate the audience so that they realize that life still goes on as normal. And in the end, the people the boy loved the most, ‘since they were not the ones dead, turned to their own affairs’ while ‘the boy saw all…since he was old enough to know..he saw all spoiled.’