I have chosen to explore the theme of loss in Out- Out, rather than any of the other anthologies’ although there are several other prospective pieces with similar themes. For example, ‘The bright lights of Sarajevo’ which also focusses primarily, on war and bloodshed. However, unlike ‘Disabled’ which focuses on the theme of loss, and the dysfunction of war, ‘The bright lights of Sarajevo’ contain an undercurrent of hope (through romance) and a belief that love can be achieved regardless of their colour or race.
Furthermore, similar themes are present in ‘An unknown girl’ (By Moniza Alvi) when the author attempts to depict her feelings of cultural identity and loss, due to the westernization of her home. For example, the repetition of the phrase ‘neon bazaar’ has been placed in the poem to emphasise her feeling of loss of the Indian culture. Furthermore, the fact that the bazaar is now neon suggests that the Indian Culture has been westernised. Her sense of loss roots from the fact that she believes she can no longer experience the true meaning of Indian culture, and is in actual fact experiencing the traditional Western culture. However neither I selected neither of these texts, instead opting for Out- Out due to its constant supply of loss physically, rather than a thought or philosophical opinion: Everyone knows it will hurt to lose an arm, while there is much disagreement whether westernization is a curse or a blessing.
When analysed, prominent themes in ‘Disabled’ will be loss. Loss of physical attributes, (such as his arm and leg) and arguably; psychological peace. This Poem was created by Wilfred Owen in 1917, when he was recovering from injuries in the western front. Many believe the poem was created from Wilfred’s view on war; which was that it was terrible and rather dysfunctional.
In Disabled, Wilfred Owen depicts of loss of fulfilment and future hopes, for example when the ‘disabled’ soldier hears the voices of boys that “rang saddening like a hymn. (A song for the dead) Voices of play and pleasure after day,” This statement is of particular importance because it shows that the soldier is saddened as he is reminded, day after day, that he had lost his youth and the comparison of their voices, to a hymn implies that the soldier is at funeral mourning the death of his previous youth. Other phrases and pieces implying that he had suffered; losing all hopes of a fruitful future includes, ‘Voices of play and pleasure after day…’ This phrase emphasises the loss of his legs and the problems entailing it. These, phrases and pieces are further accentuating a loss; he had once been a great popular athlete a fit strong man. This is called contrast and plays an important role throughout the poem.
A second theme of loss, is the loss of innocence; a boy who is forced to mature into a man before his time. This is implied firstly in line, ‘When glow-Lamps budded in the light blue trees,’ the use of the word budded is a metaphor showing that the life of the soldier had not yet ‘budded’ e.g. Matured. The use of the word light blue trees is to provide contrast to previous stanzas, e.g. ‘…And shivered in his ghastly suit of grey…’ Secondly in another stanza he elaborates on his facial attributes, saying, ‘…For it was younger than his youth…’ This sentence provides a stark contrast to the present, because it hints that his face is now older than his youth. Furthermore, the entirety of the third stanza illustrates a loss of life, energy and vigour. ‘…He’s lost his colour very far from here poured it down shell holes till the veins ran dry, and half his lifetime lapsed in the hot race, and a leap of purple spurted from his thigh.’ These phrases indicate that his life was taken from him, ‘Poured down shell holes till the veins ran dry…’ showing that he feels that a significant part of his life has already ended. Furthermore, the colour of Purple (a leap of purple spurted from his thigh) typically signifies energy and vigour, and likewise the ‘hot race’ suggested that desperation has been expended. Therefore, the young soldier believes he has lost years of his life (physically) and subsequently his strength. Furthermore, when the ‘purple leaps from his thigh’ it can be taken that it’s his youth ebbing away. Finally the sentences ‘…it was after football, when he’d drunk a peg; He thought he’d better join. He wonders why…’ He then proceeds to explain how he felt inclined to join the army because he’d ‘look good in kilts’ or ‘maybe too, to please Meg.’ This shows a level of naivety that is associated with a child, since instead of considering the implications of war, he leaves to ‘…Please Meg…’ Moreover he says ‘Germans he scarcely thought of; and no fears of fear came yet.’ This shows his ignorance and lack of knowledge of the state of warfare, believed it would be ‘Jewelled hilts’, ‘played socks’, ‘esprit de corps’ etc. This shows- No tells; the reader that he was a victim of propaganda, and believed war to be something glorious and noble.
Fourthly, Wilfred Owen portrays how contrary to the young man’s beliefs fighting in the war didn’t make him any more socially appealing or respectable. Rather, ‘…Women’s eyes passed from him to the strong men that were whole,’ Instead of becoming, as he had hoped more popular and loved, he had become forgotten, an old man in a ‘…Ghastly suit of grey…’ Moreover the fact that his battling in the war was barely remembered is reiterated when Wilfred Owen elaborates on his return stating; ‘Some cheered him home, but not as crowds cheer Goal…’ This shows that although he was welcomed home the cheers he received as greeting barely competed with the cheers received after scoring a goal in town football matches.
Finally, the author successfully portrays how the young man transformed from, a self-confident, athletic young man, into an old frail body devoid of ‘energy and vigour’ He would ‘Take whatever pity they mat dole…’ or more significantly, ‘How cold and late it is! Why don’t they come and put him to bed? Why don’t they come?’ This can be perceived to display his helplessness, since the previous young man would never have been concerned about how ‘cold and late it is!’ or just as likely could be constructed to serve as a euphuism, for him pleading for death to come and take his life. He clearly believes he has nothing left to fulfil or to yearn for.
In Out- Out, similar themes are present: significantly, loss of innocence, physical ability and social relevance. In Out- Out, a prominent theme of loss is the loss of social relevance. The boy is carrying out a man’s work, and in the kind of environment and society he was a part of, he would be judged by his contribution to his family or friends. Therefore the boy suggests that ‘all would be spoiled…’
Furthermore, the author (Robert Frost) places an emphasis on the boys innocence, and later when he ‘sees all’ the loss of it. For example when the boys hand is cut open he realises, instantaneously, that he has lost far too much blood to survive, and therefore tries to ‘keep life from spilling’ from his hand. The phrase ‘sees all’ can be seen as the transition of a boy to a man. Moreover, this transition from child to man, allows to him to understand the repercussions of lacking an essential body part: He would no longer be able to play, or carry out the physical acts of labour demanded of him. Therefore he would be alienated from both working men and the young boys when they were pleased that they had been given ‘half an hour that a boy counts so much, when saved form work.’ He would, as the boy had so aptly put it be forgotten by the others ‘who weren’t dead’ as they ‘turned to their affairs’ this shows how little the death of a young boy affected them, and emphasises the importance of the ability to contribute to society.
Thirdly, in Out- Out the there is a loss of hope for prospective future fulfilments, meaning, that when the boy ‘saw all’ he realised that whether or not his hand was lost he would never be able to handle a chainsaw again, or carry out other acts demanded of men. He would have no future, since his life depended on the ability to work. Furthermore, the boy has lost the free time he would once cherish, since as he is severely injured he would no longer be able to take part in common games; which would subsequently reduce chances of him having- sustaining a good social life. This also brings us to another theme of loss: the boy can no longer experience the natural order of life to its fullest, since without a hand or sufficient honour, social respectability and friends he wouldn’t be able to enjoy life as a child should; playing games, going on hikes etc. nor, would he be able to live in the life of men, with no sufficient contribution.
Fourthly, in Out- Out the boy is constantly threatened by loss of psychological freedom, since a young boy, naïve at heart going through life, with only harsh patronizing thoughts of himself would be vulnerable to thoughts of suicide and self-harm.
Finally, the death of the boy introduces a large theme of loss: Life. It depicts how forcing the young and naïve to work relentlessly, carrying out the work of men can cause their life to be shortened. It brings to our attention how people can so easily forget the loss of life and simply choose to ‘turn to their affairs.’ And finally shows the lack of compassion in society for those physically impaired, or unable to contribute (significantly) to society.