When comparing the poems “Out,Out-” and Disabled many themes appear, the most prominent being youth. Youth is the period between childhood and adulthood in which one grows and develops; it is also a time of hope and optimistic idealism. Not only is youth a physical state of being but a mental state of mind too . Youth is a formative period in a person’s life that is only a short part of one’s existence.
Youth as well as life is established in the title of the poem “Out ,Out-” as youth is as fragile as the flame of a candle, all it takes is a small gust of wind and the flame subsides and dies. In both of the poems the protagonists have had their youth and potential taken away. In one of the cases the young boy has an untimely death yet in the other the principal character has to ‘spend a few sick years in institutes’ until his death comes.
In the first stanza of Disabled the protagonist seems like a bitter elderly man as ‘voices of play and pleasures after day’ sadden him and almost anger him as he resents the youth and their freedom. By the third line of disabled the reader is bluntly informed of the situation, the protagonist is ‘legless, sewn short at elbow’, this statement is very matter of fact and the age of the boy makes the situation even more calamitous.
The boy is described as a youth who enjoys going out with his companions and meeting girls at night when ‘the town used to swing so gay’, this was until he ‘threw away his knees’ and the girls now look at him as if he is ‘some queer disease’. One of the reasons the boy joined the army to go to war was ‘to please his Meg’, this shows the immature nature of the boy as he will risk his life to impress a girl, it is also ironic because by doing so he will ‘never feel again how slim/ Girl’s waists are, or how warm the subtle hands’ as after his accident girls eyes ‘pass from him to the men that were whole. War has aged the protagonist, ‘he is old; his back will never brace’, even though the protagonist has not aged more than two years since he went to war he is older inside his mind and even though he still looks young on the outside due to his deformities he is treated like an old man.
At the beginning of the second stanza of the poem the reader is bought back in time when the boy reminisces about before he went to war. The juvenile nature of the boy is confirmed when he signed up for the war because he was told ‘he’d look a God in kilts’ and ‘Germans e scarcely thought of; all of their guilt and Austria’s, did not move him. And no fears/Of fear came yet’. In the last stanza of disabled the protagonist is desperate to be put to bed when a person is a child they are put to bed by their parents, this symbolises how reliant he is on other people, he is almost like a child in needing to be put to bed. Alternatively being put to bed could represent being put to bed for the last time, in the first stanza of the poem the reader is informed that the protagonist is ‘waiting for dark’ this could be hinting that he is waiting to die as he has nothing to live for.
It is ironic that the boy used to like a ‘blood-smear down his leg’. ’When the boy is at war and the shell hits the ground next to him a ‘leap of purple spurted from his thigh’ and his blood poured ‘down shell holes till the veins ran dry’ along with the blood that was lost the boy has lost his potential and the future he could have had if he did not go to war. In ‘Out,Out-’ the boy has to stop ‘the life from spilling’ in both cases the appearance of blood signifies the beginning of the loss of potential.
Throughout ‘Out-Out’ many references to youth are made, the protagonist is referred to as a boy implying he has not yet reached maturity and is still young. The young age of the boy is backed up when by calling it a day would ‘please the boy by giving him and extra half an hour’ so that he could be a child and play. When the saw has ‘leaped out of the boy’s hand’ and cut his hand the reader is informed that the boy knew that he could lose his hand as he was a ‘big boy/Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart’.
In both of the poems the principal characters are too young to be doing the activities that get them injured but both of the boys have consent from an adult. In Disabled the boy is not old enough to join the army yet when he goes to sign up ‘smiling they wrote his lie; aged nineteen years’. In ‘Out, Out-‘ the boy’s family knows what work he is doing, it shows how insignificant elderly people think youth are. The boy’s youth is reiterated when he beg his sister ‘don’t let them cut my hand off- Don’t let them sister’.
This plea by the boy confirms his youth as he is begging his older sister to do something to change the outcome of the events even though she can’t. The boy’s plea shows how young and innocent he is as it is the plea that a young child would make when they have hurt them self. The protagonist begging his sister in ‘Out-Out’ is similar to the boy in ‘disabled’ asking ‘Why don’t they come/ And put him to bed? ’ both of them have become dependent on someone else.
When the protagonist dies in ‘Out-Out’ there is ‘no more to build on there’ his potential and optimistic idealism is lost along with his life. The events of ‘Disabled’ are very similar as even though the protagonist does not die he has to spend the rest of his life being looked after and so he has lost his potential too. There are many similarities between the two poems; both the boys have had their youth taken away in a single short moment which changes their future.