“Death is most salient in lines 29-34,

 “Death is not
the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we
live” (Norman Cousins). As has been shown on many occasions, this truly is an
element of life which is truly present within both Wilfred Owen’s ‘Disabled’
and Robert Frost’s ‘Out,
Out –’– but which has shown it to a
larger extent? Frost masterfully portrays how the many forms of loss effect one
of a youthful age (most successfully conveying the loss of life), for the most
part, but chooses to stray away from the emotional loss one would sustain in
such a situation. Wilfred Owen, on the other hand, is able to effectively depict
the many forms of loss one sustains in war, and the effects it has out of it
(especially that of the physical loss the protagonist sustains). He, unlike
Frost, covers the entire spectrum of loss, truly fulfilling the prospects stated
in Norman Cousins words.

 

The loss of emotion is an aspect of loss which is
quite evident in Owen’s ‘Disabled’, but, for the most part, is not present in
Frost’s ‘Out, Out –’. Instead, there is an absence of emotion by the
protagonist – with the events of the poem elucidating what happens to the boy
physically, opposed to the emotional effects. The absence of emotion on the
boy’s behalf is mirrored by the lack of emotion and callousness of the adults
treating him (with them “turning to their affairs” after the boy’s
death). This is most salient in lines 29-34, with it describing the treatment
of the boy post-injury. Emotional loss is, however, dealt with differently in
Owen’s ‘Disabled’ – with it being shown to a substantial extent. An example of
this is that of how his injuries caused a loss of emotional attachment. This is
most evidently shown when Owen describes how the soldier “will never feel
again how slim girl’s waists are, or how warm their subtle hands”. This
engenders an image of intimacy, displaying both a physical and emotional
relationship between him and women – but, due to his injuries, a feeling which
he is unable to feel; as shown through the “never”. This is displays
a loss of emotion as it is stated that this is something that he once had – as
shown through the entirety of the fourth stanza. The loss of emotion is further
shown in the form of emotional peace ? specifically at the end of the first
stanza. In this, it is described how young boys – like him before joining –
experience “pleasure after day, till gathering sleep had mothered them
from him.” This forms the impression that the soldier harbours a form a
PTSD, with his injuries not only deeming unable to experience “play and
pleasure”, but also them plaguing his thoughts and dreams, with sleep – as
shown when Owen writes “sleep had mothered them from him”. This, in
turn, shows loss of emotional peace as what is often considered to be the most
peaceful state (sleep), is unable to shield him from the horrors he experienced
– leaving him flustered. 

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Another discernible attribute present in both poems
is that of physical loss. In Owen’s ‘Disabled’ physical loss is most
prominently shown when describing the injuries the soldier sustained. This is
present from the very first stanza, when Owen describes that the soldier is
“legless, sewn short at the elbow. Through…”. Not only does it
describe his injuries, but also provides a visual representation of this through
the caesura. The caesura shows that his arm is halved, by halving the line –
highlighting the physical loss. Frost also uses caesurae in an analogous way
when he says that the buzz saw “leaped out at the boy’s hand… He must have
given the hand. However, it was…”. The caesurae here is used as a visual
representation of the boy having his hand cut off– with the line also being cut
(like what Owen did in ‘Disabled’). Both are analogous as both poets use
caesurae to provide a visual representation in the poem, to add emphasis to the
injuries undergone by both protagonists – in turn, both highlighting physical
loss that both had endured.  Another
example of Owen emphasising physical loss in ‘Disabled’ is in lines 19-21.
These lines describe the pain of his injuries – focusing on the discomfort they
bring to him – and are written in iambic pentameter. The rhythm of the iambic
pentameter elevates what is being described, which emphasises the gravity of
his physical injuries, and the loss it has brought him. This is due to iambic
pentameter being considered to be the most elevated form of speech. This is
further supported by purple being a protuberant colour in the imagery conveyed
– with purple having connotations royalty, in turn reinforcing the gravity of
the physical loss. This is a technique which is not, however, present in
Frost’s ‘Out, Out –’. Instead, Frost goes into extensive detail the scenery
surrounding the boy, accentuating their many beauties – for example,
“Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it”.  Frost had emphasized the beauty of the
physical world to show what the boy had lost upon getting injured and, later,
dying. This shows the physical loss as it the boy is losing the ability to
experience the material world and all of its beautiful splendour.   

 

The loss of life itself is encapsulated by both
poets through many different forms. An example of this is that of Frost’s
depiction of the loss of life in ‘Out, Out –’. In this, he describes the
scenery before the boy’s accident – delineating a “sunset far into Vermont”.
This creates the image of colour (the sun) disappearing before the accident –
with colour having connotations to life – in turn, creating the idea that after
the accident, the boy’s life was lost. This is similar to how Owen uses colour
to portray a loss of life. This is most conspicuously present when the
soldier is depicted as being dressed in a “suit of grey” – also conveying an absence
of colour, and in turn the loss of life. This is further supported when
Owen describes the town and its contents. In this, he delineates how the
“glow-lamps budded in the light-blue trees”, prior to describing how “he threw
away his knees” – with this forming a colourful image before describing the injury
itself; which is similar to what Frost does with the sunset imagery. Owen
further uses colour to describe the consequences of the injuries sustained,
when he describes how a “leap of purple spurted form his thigh”. This forms an
impression of life (shown through purple being a bright, vibrant colour)
“spurting” out of his injury, furthering the notion that both accidents
sustained by each protagonist lead to a loss of life. Both are comparable as
both poets use colourful imagery to portray life (and the absence of it).

 

Control is a form of loss which is at the forefront in
both Wilfred Owen’s and Robert Frost’s poems. This is evident from the
start of Owen’s ‘Disabled’ and from the very first line of the poem. In this,
the protagonist is portrayed as having no control over his current situation
and his life – as shown when he is described as being “in a wheeled
chair”. It symbolizes the loss of control, as he has to be
pushed everywhere, not being able to lead his life the way he would have, thus
depicting an absence of control. This, in turn, displays the loss of control,
as it is implied that the protagonist was once in control – as demonstrated
through him once being a football player. The absence of control is further
reinforced by the structure of Owen’s ‘Disabled’. The structure of the poem
itself is multi-stanzaic, with it, in turn, having a fragmented and
uncontrolled structure – evinced through the poem being achonological. The
loss of control is also demonstrated through similar means in Frost’s
‘Out, Out –’; with both conveying it through the structure of the poem. In
Frost’s ‘Out, Out–’, the poem is monostanzaic, with the events being told
in chronological order. This shows there to be an overabundance of
control – as, due to an overabundance of control, he was able to obtain the
buzz-saw – leading to his hand being cut off, sequentially causing any
control he had over his life to be handed to the doctors. Despite both
showing control through the structure of the poem, the point
the poets are trying to convey are vastly different – with Owen trying to
show how the injuries he sustained led to the loss of control of his life, and
Frost portraying how an overabundance of control leading to the loss of his
life.

 

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The
greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live” (Norman Cousins). This is
an element of life which is unequivocally captured in both Wilfred
Owen’s ‘Disabled’ and Robert Frost’s ‘Out, Out –’. It is shown through loss’
many forms (forms such as the loss of control, the loss of life and physical
loss) – with each poem depicting them in contrasting ways. Wilfred Owen’s
‘Disabled’ is about a soldier, once a talented football player, who is crippled
due to the savagery of war. It describes how the injuries he had sustained
crippled in more ways than one – leading to him having to endure the many forms
of loss. Robert Frost’s ‘Out, Out –’ describes a child who,
after losing his hand to a buzz-saw, has his life laid at the mercy of
discourteous adults; resulting in his death. In the poem, the boy experiences
the callous forms of loss.

How is Loss Represented in Wilfred
Owen’s ‘Disabled’ and Robert Frost’s ‘Out, Out –’?

 

Having
had my perception of loss changed, the way I perceive literature has changed along
with it. It had changed in the way that, upon reading a new a piece of
literature, I look for the deeper meaning, analysing this “meaning”, hoping for
this “meaning” to change my perception of something else, something that
affects me as loss had. Going forth, I aim to apply this mentality to all
pieces of literature. These are few of the many reasons that I have chosen to
study and write about these poems.

Loss
is isolation. It is a feeling that makes you feel alone. A feeling that compels
you to dismiss help. A feeling which forces you to become reclusive. This is
the perception of loss that I harboured before reading both Wilfred Owen’s
‘Disabled’ and Robert Frost’s ‘Out, Out –’. The way in which both poets
describe the losses sustained by their respective protagonists made me realise that
loss is not isolation; but that it is an aspect of life that is experienced by
every single person – with it not mattering if you are a casualty of war or a
young boy – teaching me that I am not alone. This is perhaps what I find most
intriguing about each poem; with them, despite being so distinct, portraying
the same message to me, whilst describing events that are completely
dissimilar. Not only had the message personally spoken to me, but it also
conveyed a very relevant message to contemporary reader – with 19.7% of the
United Kingdom’s population age over sixteen years displaying symptoms of
anxiety or depression (as of 2014) – telling that that they are not alone in
what they feel.

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