Out, out- and the death of Innocence

During the fun of a Skype lesson with our partners in Ankara this morning, we were discussing Frost’s Out, out- and became embroiled in a discussion of the allusions to Genesis.

Whilst stressing that this is not over literal and that the son does not signify Adam per se, we explored the following ideas:

1: The rural setting with the ‘sweet scented’ logs and the five mountain ranges creates a version, if not of Eden, then certainly of a Pastoral Idyll, remote from society and therefore relatively pure.

2: In this paradise, as in all such, the exists a potential evil – ‘et in arcadia ego’ – in this case the buzz-saw, clearly personified as a snake – the rattle linking directly to the rattlesnake found in the USA.

3: The snake and the boy come together, both tempted by the ‘sister’ crying ‘supper.

4: In Eden, Adam is the ‘son and Eve his ‘sister’. It is she who tempts him and brings about the fall – the loss of innocence.

5: The shocked boy clings to his innocence – ‘don’t let him cut off my hand’. The voice of experience, the omniscient narrator is firm in his experience – the hand is already lost.

6: The death of the boy is uncertain – beautifully told in the sense of the use of the punctuation as the little less nothing sequence is divided by dashes, yet Frost uses the form !- for the last moment. The ! closes the sentence and the – demands a pause, with the sense kept open. Is the ! the moment of death and the – the reaction?

7: What dies is innocence. The boy is clearly insignificant on a cosmic scale, and as suggested by the intertextuality of the title, ‘[he] should have died hereafter, there would have been time for such a word’, suggesting that he will be mourned in due course. What is clear is that the once idyllic world of the farm has been shown to be a harsh and cruel natural world. One in which children die.

Once again we are shown that Paradise contains the seeds of evil and that Experience will always trump Innocence.


Or not.

Other linked articles:

Pastoral in Jerusalem (possibly 16+ rated for language)