Loss Essay

The four texts I have studied include “Disabled” by Owen, “Out",Out” by Frost, “The Bright Lights of Sarajevo” by Harrison and “Night” by Munro. In “The Bright lights of Sarajevo” there was a main focus on light. There are many interpretations of light, from the lights of conflict and war, to the “matches” and “candles” of the couple’s romance amidst a war, or the figurative light of hope. However, the tone of conflict has been greatly contrasted by “disabled”, which depicted the worst side of war, where the protagonist has become disabled and confined to a wheelchair, losing all hope and optimism for life. “Out",Out” is composed of only a single stanza narrating the accidental death of a child laborer. The description of the child’s dying heartbeats were devastatingly simple, just “little-less-nothing!” shows the simplicity and swiftness of his death, the fragility of life and the hardships of working in those conditions. The semi-autobiographical short “Night” told the story of a teenager dealing with mental-illness and depression which leads to a conversation of her father’s role in her childhood.

However, I want to compare the presentation of loss in “Disabled” and “Out",Out”. The two poems both center around loss, however they are portrayed very differently. In “Disabled” loss is not immediate but a process. The soldier in “Disabled” showed different stages of loss, from the initial loss of physical ability, to the following loss of hope and future, to the possible long-term loss of sanity. In contrast “Out",Out” narrates a very swift fatal accident, with simple vocabulary, only one stanza and no rhyme scheme. However, Frost also depicts the same themes of loss, from loss of physical ability to loss of hope and loss of future. With the same themes of loss, I want to compare how they are presented differently in structure and linguistic techniques as well as the similarities of these ideas across both poems.

Explore the ways in which loss is presented in “Disabled” and “Out, Out”

The poems “Diasbled” and ‘Out",Out” both intend to bring out similar themes of loss which goes further than the loss of tangible physical abilities but also the loss of hope, independence and a future. The poem “Out",Out” is about a boy who worked in a farm with a buzz saw and gets distracted. As a result, he badly injures his hand, and also losing his life. However, the poem “Disabled” revolves around a man who lost his legs in a war, confining him to a wheelchair. The language, structure and themes are brought out differently in both poems, which used a variety of different structuring and language techniques to emphasize the different aspects which are lost, and their impact on the protagonist.

Structure and language of the two poems are different as the poets intend to bring about different effects. For instance the structure of “Out",Out” is a single stanza that does not have any particular rhyme scheme. The impact of this structure style is to depict the swiftness in which the accident occurs. The stanza progresses much faster than it would if the poem was broken down into distinct stanzas. “Out",Out” can therefore be considered to be about an unexpected accident that requires no recollections, memories or long traumatic events. Additionally, the poem lacks a rhyme scheme which in return causes a flow of ideas rather than separation of the same ideas. Conversely the structure of “Disabled” is different since it is divided into six stanzas which rhymes in alternating lines. Although the number of lines in each stanza is not uniform the rhyme scheme is still constant. The effect of this approach is to bring ideas into the reader’s mind in an alternating pace, allowing the reader to understand the gradual deterioration of the soldier. Each Stanza in Disabled also represent a stage in the Soldier’s life. The opening stanza informs the reader about the current condition of the soldier, which was “sitting in a wheelchair”. The second and third stanza shows the recollection of the soldier’s former life, and the pleasures of life he enjoyed such as romance, sports and “giddy jilts.” Finally, the poem concludes with the sad reality of the soldier’s life. This broken and uneven stanza formation with alternating time periods allow Owen to show the process of the man’s loss of his connection to the world and the emphasis of him being an incomplete man. This poem’s rhyme scheme is composed of an “ABACBC” style; however, this pattern is regularly broken, and the poem’s irregular line structure also crippled the iambic pentameter further emphasizing the soldier as being “broken”.

Aside from structure and rhyme scheme, loss is also emphasized through the use of harsh but strong imagery. For example, the man is portrayed to be dressed in a ghastly grey suit; the imagery in this case depicts the soldier to be grim and depressed. Moreover, the man seems to regret his situation by saying that he “threw away his knees”, this his meant he felt that his doings in the war was not of loyalty or patriotism, but being a soldier led him to become a cripple. Similarly, “Out",Out” also uses a range of descriptive and imagery techniques to exemplify the fragility of life and the impact of loss. Specifically, personification has been used to emphasize various instances in the poem. For example, the buzz saw was described to have “leaped out” of the boy’s hand “in excitement” which almost brings the saw to life. The use of repetition and onomatopoeia further enhances the image, such as when the saw “snarled and rattled snarled and rattled” creates a very powerful image of the saw being alive and dangerous. The over-personification and the repetition of onomatopoeias builds up tensions and intensify the poem. Frost also uses narration to describe the boy’s reaction. The boy “holding up his hand” as if surrendering to his ill fate and attempting to stop his life from spilling out through the loss of his hand.

Both poems stress the loss of independence. The soldier after losing his legs now confines himself in a wheelchair and is always self-conscious and depicts himself as a lesser man. He for instance, he views himself as “Legless, sewn short at elbow” and at the same time feels jealous of “the strong men that are whole”. The repetition of “whole” and “half” shows how the loss of his legs is significant to him and this is why he pities himself. Again, being handicapped means that he has lost his independence as he has to rely on others to put him to bed and even depend on whatever “pity they may dole”. In “Out",Out” The boy’s plead “don’t let him cut my hand off” shows how the boy is most distressed about the loss of his hand which cannot allow him to do “a man’s work” and fend for his family and be useful for his family, making him become reliant on them, therefore losing his independence. Both the soldier and the boy both seem deeply devasted about their loss of independence and their future of reliance on other people.

Loss of hope for the future is also exemplified in the two poems. For instance, in “Out",Out” when the boy realizes that his hand is lost he assumes that “all is spoiled”. He knew that he will no longer be able to cut wood for his family or be much use in the world and that the people he leaves behind after he dies will go on about their work. “They were not the ones dead, turned to their affairs” was a devastatingly simple way to end the poem further depicting hopelessness. Similarly, in “Disabled” the handicapped soldier only hears the voices of other singing. Before the accident he used to participate but after the amputation, now he can only listen to voices of play and pleasure. In “Out",Out” the boy already attests that “all is spoiled” even before his hand is amputated. He realizes that after his hand is lost, he can no longer work like the others. He realizes that the others in his environment will alienate him and he will not be able to participate in the activities of his that he used to. In the same way the disabled veteran realizes his life will not amount to much but a short stay in the veteran institution. The poem starts with an ill and a dejecting tone, as the first stanza states “he sat in a wheeled chair, waiting for dark.” In the next stanzas, the soldier recollects of his past good memories and he longs for the same in future. From the poem, the soldier is easily motivated by “drums and cheers”, and romance such as to “please his Meg” and this is why he desired adventure in the war. However, now He will never “feel again how slim girl’s waists are” which is an example of loss in his ability to enjoy things he used to relish. In stanzas 2 and 3, he talks about how his life “used to be” and how it was “last year” and the “old times”. His past stories also show how he still dwells in the past which was associated with happy memories which he does not expect in the future. This shows why he is not willing to relinquish his glorious past, and has little desire to face in future. Owen also ends the poem in a dejecting tone as an expression of the soldier’s lost optimism for the future by stating “Now, he will spend a few years in institutes”.

In conclusion, both poets’ use a wide range of different structural and linguistic techniques to help communicate and to explore the different themes of deeper loss such as the loss of independence, loss of hope and loss of a future. The outcome of these contrasting styles is that the they both manage to capture the reader’s attention as well as sympathy in different ways. While Frost dwells on a simple but powerful style of writing with a single stanza and no rhyme scheme to emphasize the simplicity, and the swiftness of the death, Owen uses complex stanzas and different periods of past and current time frames to depict the different stages of the Soldier’s slow and gradual deterioration.

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