Both Wilfred Owen and Robert Frost use techniques such as careful diction, imagery and sentence structure to convey their agendas. They both outline how a single even can end the childhood of a young man prematurely and what effect it has on both of their lives. The two poems stimulate a sense of pity within us and furthermore, Owen stimulates a sense of outrage that men are allowed to join the army below the set age. Both poets use graphic description and effective diction as a means to stimulate a sense of horror within the reader.
Both poets use an omniscient narrator to give the reader a larger overview of all of the events. By using an omniscient narrator it enables the reader to know all of the characters’ feelings and this would not have been possible by using a first or second person narrator. Interestingly Frost changes the speaker during his poem to the first person. This change in narrator is very effective as it highlights the sudden harsh realisation of the situation the young man is in. It is also a very dramatic change in direction within the poem because before this change in narrator, the poem had been neutral and non-judgmental but now, the narrator’s own opinion comes to the fore and this changes how we view the poem.
For example, the narrator says: “I wish they had said” which is an opinion of the narrator. Previously we had felt more detached and distanced from the events because of the omniscient narrator but because of this change and because of the introduction of opinions it starts to become more judgmental and feel more real. Owen uses an omniscient narrator throughout the poem and this does distance us from the events that occur but not so much so that we do not feel the emotion that the character feels.
A major similarity between the poems is that they both outline how much of a tragic waste it was to loose a young man and how appalling it was that their childhood is taken away from them. “Disabled” reveals how a single event can damage a person physically but it may damage them more psychologically. Owen emphasises how tragic it is that even though the young man has survived war, he resents the fact he is in a wheelchair so much that he would rather die. than carry on living the way he is. The character in “Disabled” has long term physiological problems, however in “Out-Out” the fate of the character is much swifter and sharper. Frost displays how life carries on as normal after the young man dies.
Frost’s poem is much quicker and “to-the-point” than “Disabled” and I feel Frost does this to show how quickly the character died. For example, the last sentence, “And they, since they were not the one dead, turned to their affairs”, ends very suddenly and this resembles the sudden death of this young man and how quickly a tragic event, such as this, can happen. Also, Frost highlights the attitude of the people who were not effected by the death of the young man. Frost uses one last medium sized sentence to calmly bring the poem to a close. Frost is highlighting how outrageous it is that the people around the character simply carry on with their normal lives after seeing a young man die.
Also, “Disabled” shows how the attitude of the general public has changed since 1915. “Disabled” describes how this young man is shut away, for example, “Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer goal” tells us how a few people would celebrate their soldiers but it wouldn’t have been as heartfelt as if they were cheering when someone scored a goal in football. “Now, he will spend a few sick years in Institutes” supports my point further as it almost displays how there was almost a routine managing of these returned soldiers and how people thought that they were not fit to go back into society and so they should be shut away.
Now, the whole country cheers for our armed forces when they return and there is a sense of pride about these servicemen. “Disabled” shows how the opinion of the public changes over time towards British servicemen. Also, neither poem is exclusively linked to a particular time , for example “Disabled” is set in 1915 during the war and it deals with the issue of a young man dying in a very horrific and graphic way. Today this is still relevant because people would still be horrified at the death of such a young man in such a horrific way. Even though the poem is set in 1915 the ideas and feelings are timeless.
Both poets use structure throughout their poems to support their meanings. ‘Ou-Out” is written as one long stanza as it is one simple fast incident. There is no reason to divide it up as it is almost written in real time and there is no need for paragraphing. However in ‘Disabled’ Owen breaks up the narrative by parcelling up different events into sections. Owen does this as it allows the character to go back and forth in time very easily, this would not have been possible in ‘Out-Out’ because it is one event that happens in a matter of a couple of hours.
Owen’s poem is broken up due to the use of end-stopping, this means it has punctuation at the end of the line which emphasises rhyme. However, in ‘Out-Out’ there is a lack of end-stopping and this means that the reader does not stress the rhyme. The rhyme scheme is de-emphasised because the subject of the poem is very serious and the poet does not want to change the mood of the poem by introducing an iambic rhythm which may lighten the mood of the poem and this would not be appropriate and would not have such a deep impact on the reader. Frost also neglects to use end-stopping because he wants the poem to resemble natural speech and more pensive which is reflective of the tone, unlike artificial rhymes of poetry.
However, neither poem relies on end-stopping greatly but ‘Disabled’ uses it more effectively. Frost creates a mood and an image in the readers head using sentence length. For example in the first six lines Frost uses only two lengthy sentences to describe the Vermont countryside, this sounds peaceful and gentle as the reader reads it. Due to the long sentences, the poem starts to sound lyrical and more song-like which creates a peaceful mood. Frost quickly shifts the mood of the poem by using emphatic, onomatopoeic diction to stress the violence of the saw.
The poet uses the phrase “the day way all but done” which sounds peaceful to outline how close the young man was to escaping the trauma of the event which was about to happen. The poets goes on to use caesura when the sister says “Supper” as a way to break up the poem. The sentences “Neither refused the meeting” emphasises that both parties are involved in the event and that they are both to blame and that the event is bizarrely mutual. Frost uses the short, dramatic sentence “But the hand!” as a means to make you focus on the drama of the event. Frost uses very few exclamation marks and in this instance he uses it to make the reader focus on the hand and how gruesome it is, this works very well.
Frost also centers his poem around the idea of it being hideously comic. For example the boy is described as crying out with a ‘rueful laugh”, the boy is obviously so shocked that his whole hand has been cut off that he finds it comical. It is ridiculous that the boy finds his hand being cut off is so comical but so is a boy doing a man’s work, Frost is trying to convey how ridiculous it is that this young boy, who laughs at his hand being cut off, is doing the work of a man. Frost carries the idea of the event being hideously comic by using the phrase “half an appeal, but half as if to keep the life from spilling” which means the boy is literally holding his hand in place so it will not fall off. this supports Frost’s idea of the event being hideously comic.
In “Disabled” the reader does not read to rhyme because the punctuation does not allow it. There is not an artificial iambic rhythm in ‘Out-Out’ because the poet does not want the poem to sound jolly. The poem looks coherent but it is not, it is disjointed, much like the character in the poem. Frost uses a very small sentence in the second half of the poem after the tragic event has happened which is very powerful and effective and has very many meanings, which is “So.”.
This small sentence could have many meanings, it could mean “So what?” as if to say that it happens all the time and no body cares. It could mean that what happened to him was bad luck. Frost uses this sentence to make the reader stop and think that a boy of that age should not have been doing such a job and that he was not ready for it. It is a great contrast to the long sentences earlier in the poem and this is because the mood of the poem has changed from peaceful to dramatic and stressed. This change in mood by the use of diction and sentence structure is also used in “Disabled”.
In the second stanza it states that “Town used to swing so gay”, this peaceful, sweet diction gives the reader an insight into how the boy felt before his injury and how he felt happy and free. The mood changes in the very same stanza because the poet uses a very emphatic sentence, ‘In the old times, before he threw away his knees”. This use of a metaphor shows us that the boy feels he has carelessly given away his legs and that he feels responsible for it. This quick change in mood is very similar to the change in mood in “Out-Out”. In ‘Out-Out” Frost uses the phrase “dark of ether”.
This could mean many things, it could have its literal meaning because the boy is unconsciousness and therefore can not see anything. It could mean that he is ignorant to what is going on around him or it could relate back to him doing a man’s work because he doesn’t know what he is doing and therefore ‘In the dark”. In the second half of ‘Out-Out” the punctuation breaks the poem up and makes it feel disjointed which slows the reader down to think. The sentence structure of ‘Little…less…nothing” in “Out-Out” shows the slow ebbing away of life and how he probably bled to death, throughout the two poems blood and life are very closely connected. Also, the last sentence is not the last line in “Out-Out” and this gives the reader a sense that the people around the boy did not stop, they just got on with life and Frost does this to show how outrageous a boy has died doing a man’s job but no-body cares.
The characters in both of the poems are both under some type of pressure. In ‘Out-Out’ we presume that the boy does not want to do this job and that he is expected to do it by his father and this leads to his death. Similarly, in “Disabled” it says he “Thought he’d better join” which tells us he felt compelled to join the army. Both poets make the characters vulnerable to pressure to outline how easily convinced and persuaded children are and how they are not even able to make their own minds up and come to a sensible decision and so how should they be made to do a man’s job.
Both poems stress how young these boys are and how they should not be doing what they are made to do. In “Out-Out” it states “smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years” this tells us how the boy thinks that everything will be fine and how he is not old enough to understand the danger he is putting himself in and therefore he should not be doing this at all. The poems both outline how fragile childhood is and how it can be taken away from someone even if they are not killed. In “Disabled” it shows how the young man would rather die than be in a wheelchair and in a way, his childhood has been more effected than that of the boy in “Out-Out’.
Both poems have an idea that the boys in the poems are responsible for what happened to them. In ‘Disabled”, it was his decision to sign up and go to war even though others had pressured him and in ‘Out-Out’ it states “neither refused the meeting’ which shows that he is to blame for what happened. By making the characters in the poems responsible for what happened to them, the poets again show that they should not have to make these decisions as they are clearly not ready to make them.
Both poems use many examples of imagery to convey the feelings and senses of the event that is taking place. In “Disabled” the boy is described as having “threw away his knees” and that he “poured” his life down shell-holes. These uses of metaphors emphatically describe how the boy feels that it was this fault that he became disabled and that he was responsible for what happened to him. Again in “Disabled” Frost states how “sleep has mothered” the sight of happy healthy boys playing in the park from him. This metaphor is used to show how the boy is still a child and that he still needs a reassuring, safe place, like a mother, to comfort him and that place is sleep for the boy now because he gets to escape from his disability.
Emphatic diction in “Out-Out” creates a happy peaceful mood. For example the poem states “Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it” this use of alliteration creates a soft sound in the readers mouth and helps the reader to imagine the peacefulness of the countryside. Contrastingly, Frost uses onomatopoeia to describe the animalistic qualities of the saw. Frost describes the saw as it “snarled and rattled”, this use of onomatopoeic diction is very effective as it turns the saw into an animal and it makes the innocence of the boy more clear because the saw almost has a life of its own.
To conclude, I personally prefer “Out-Out” because it is centered around one single event and it is told in almost real time. I feel it captures the graphic scenes better than “Disabled” by using careful effective diction and the whole idea of it being comically gruesome. I also feel that because the poem is told in real time the reader feels less distanced to the events than in “Disabled” because you are not constantly flicking between times and places. I feel that Robert Frost succeeds in conveying his agenda because he shows how the pure carelessness of a child means that he can be killed instantly in the wrong situation as the boy was in ‘Out-Out’. However, I do feel that “Disabled: does show the changing attitude of the general public towards servicemen and servicewomen between 1915 and the present day very well.
In “Disabled” it talks about how the boy would be put into institutions and how people were more concerned about a goal in a game of football than the safe return of a serviceman. Since Iraq and Afghanistan the general public does not have the same attitude towards our armed forces. For example before 2002, men returning from war were discouraged from coming back in uniform but now when our armed forces return we have large parades for them and it is a joyous occasion. Another example is that Wootton Basset was turned into Royal Wootton Basset just because that is where servicemen return to. Previously, returning armed forces were put into institutions and shut away but now there are huge charities with the sole purpose to raise money for injured servicemen so they can lead a normal life.