Robert Frosts “Home Burial” is a narrative poem that speaks of lifes tragedies. Frosts writings style is very straightforward and direct. In “Home Burial the setting appears to be the background of a tragedy that centers around the death of a child. It is important for the reader to recognize that “Home Burial” was written in the early 1900 hundreds. This gives the reader a better insight to understanding the husbands reaction to the death of the child.During this time period Society dictated that men did not show their true feelings. Therefore, men tended to have dealt with conflicts by working hard and being domineering. “Home Burial” demonstrates how one tragedy can cause another to occur.
The unnamed couple in this poem has lost a baby to death. The mother grieves openly, and it could be said that she has never recovered from this loss; bereaved parents never forget, but most people in this position gradually work out a way of dealing with their grief, and go on with their lives.This the young mother cannot do. The baby is buried in the family graveyard, which is visible from an upstairs window of their house.Day after day she goes to the stairway window looking out upon the nearby family plot.The sight of the raw mound where her child lies buried reopens her grief. But, another emotion wells up as well anger and bitterness at her husband, which is at first unexplained.The first hint of the rift between them shows up on lines twelve to thirteen, she “refused him any help, /
with the least stiffening of her neck and silence.” Their dialogue is cold and antagonistic. “What is itwhat? /Just that I see. / You dont, she challenged. /Tell me what it is.”(18-19).The death of child, which should bind husband and wife closer in their common grief, pries them apart instead (Gerber 128).
In the husbands first two lines as wells his last one, his attitude toward his wife is domineering and seems insensitive.First he tells her ” he wants to know” what she keeps looking at through the window; then he tell her she “must tell” him. Even the fact that he softens this last demand with a tacked-on “dear”, doesnt make it feel any less of a command. And at very end of the poem, he ask, “Where do you mean to go? First tell me that. / Ill follow and bring you back by force. I will!” (21-22). In between he seems sincerely anxious to learn how to communicate with his wife, and he ask for her help, but there is a tremendous wall of resentment in her way. The man has indeed been insensitive to his wifes grief and singularly slow in divining the cause and extent of her resentment (Barry 77).
One grants that the husband is considerably less than tactful, but he has spoken from deep stress and anxiety.The wife, on the other hand, is going through an extremely difficult time emotionally and she needs support and compassion, which she does not feel she is getting from her husband.
Twice during the poem she starts to leave the house, and twice the husband delays her, by asking her not to ” Amy! Dont go to someone else this time. / Dont carry it to someone else this time. (39 and 57).At first the reader might assume she is having and affair, but in the context of the poem it seems more likely that she is going simply to a friend or a relative, probably a woman, to discuss with them the topic she cannot bring herself to broach her own husband. Struggling to restrain himself, the husband sits down, speaking and reflecting on the fact that his wife goes to other people with her troubles instead of discussing them with him (Marcus 47).
At last the wall of silence breaks down and….. we learn why she is so angry with him. After the baby died, the father went out and dug a little grave in the family plot. The mother watched from the window as he made the grave.
Making the gravel leap and leap in the air,
Leap up, like that, like that, and land so lightly.
And roll back down the mound beside the hole.
I thought who is that man? I didnt know you (75-79).
Here is vision, bearing the flame of piercing feeling in the living word. How exquisitely the strain of the mothers anguish is felt in that naked image (Garnett). He was digging his child grave in as sprightly manner as if he were planting a tree,
and then returned to the house with what seemed to the mother an offhanded remark about the effects of damp on birch trees.
But lets look specifically at what he did say, for in those lines lies the whole heart of the poem. After he dug his childs grave, he came inside and said, “Three foggy mornings and one rainy day/Will rot the best birch fence a man can build”
(92-93). This remark was not hateful at all; it was it was closely related to his remark a few lines earlier in the poem, “Im cursed, God, if I dont believe Im cursed”(90). What the husband is saying is that he planted a seed— his child—that seemed to be growing well; he had invested his very heart and soul and dreams in that childs future; he had; “built” it well, but an act of God had mysteriously taken it away.The only way this closed-mouthed farmer had of expressing such a truth was through the metaphor of farming, and his wife, whose metaphors were different, didnt understand. She is unable to read her husbands indirection; if she had actually understood the birch fence metaphor, she would have found it cruel (Litz, Unger 578).
One would expect that after a revelation of this type; all would be well between the two bereaved parents, and they would be able to help each other work out their grief.But there is still too much hurt behind their separate ways of dealing with their grief.
In the last stanza the wife is still preparing to leave, “I must go—/ Somewhere out of this house,”(27-29).
“Home Burial”, whose title reflects not only the babys literal burial but also the burial of the home along with the marriage. Here we have “Home Burial” carried to the extreme: the home, “now slowly closing like a dent in dough,” is being buried before our eyes (Berger 162).
The tone in “Home Burial” was one of bitterness, resentment, anger, and anguish.When reading the poem, one can sense the anguish the mother is going through and you can hear the resentment in the voices of both parents.In addition, theres anger from both husband and wife. Bitterness, regretful-ness and sorrow are all implied throughout the poem.
Imagery in the poem could be seen in lines (75-79).When the husband was burying his son, the reader could see himself or herself there.With the gravel flying and making it “leap” into the air. In the minds eye one could see the gravel sliding back into the hole. We could actually visualize the mound getting higher.
There were three different tragedies that transpired throughout this poem.The burial of the child was first; second was the burial of the marriage and finally the most symbolic and ironic tragedy is the burial of the home. Because of unfortunate circumstances these three things became closely associated with the home being buried.All of these tragedies occurred as a result of the childs burial. The couples marriage could not survive such an emotional loss.Therefore the marriage becomes buried.When the marriage became buried the home became its own burial spot for this familys life.