“When grief is deepest, words are fewest”, a quote by Anne Voskamp, perfectly describes the message portrayed in the poem, “Home Burial”. The author, Robert Frost, effectively uses the language and lifestyle of people who have gone through a tragedy in their life to convey a realist encounter to his readers. With the help of many rhetorical devices throughout this entire short poem, the reader feels like they are physically on the staircase with the couple and it allows them to connect with the the anger of the wife, and the sadness and desperateness of the husband.
In “Home Burial”, Frost effectively uses multiple rhetorical devices within the poem to create a deeper layer of content. On the surface, it talks about the death of a child that has separated the couple because of the differences in their grieving styles. It is told as the husband is on the bottom of the stairwell, while the wife is on the top step looking out at the family burial site, where their child was recently buried. Instead of grieving together, it has caused a deep tension in the household as the wife questions why he is acting like he has moved on so fast, while the wife is inconsolable and a wreck. It is an emotion filled poem that ends in a cliffhanger on whether or not the wife left the man.
If you look more into this poetic masterpiece, the use of devices used allows the reader to feel more sympathy for the characters, and creates a strong description of the characters situation and the way they speak to each other. During the authors lifetime, Frost lost some of his children when they were at a very young age due to different circumstances, so the grief he must have gone through most likely influenced him to write this poem. However in the actual poem itself, the wife is making argument that her life has turned completely upside down and she feels trapped, wanting to leave because he seems unphased that their child is now gone. The husband is making the argument that she is not talking to him and wanting her to stay instead of leaving to someone else, like she has threatened.
The rhetorical devices used by Robert Frost are intended to have an effect on its audience. This is perfectly illustrated by the use of his diction, imagery, and symbolism. For instance, the staircase, where this entire poem takes place, is vividly described and plays a significant symbol. When he figures out why she is always looking out at that exact spot, he comes to a realization that, “But I understand: it is not the stones, But the child’s mound—’”. Meaning, the only spot in the house that she can see the family burial is on top of the stairs, which the husband has found out that is why she is always sitting there staring blankly outside.
The diction conveyed during this entire poem is actually quite amazing, and makes it interesting to sit down and analyze deeply. Frost makes sures that each line is filled with underlying anger, sadness, and confusion. The wife is so angry at the husband for burying their child, and she felt he had no sadness for the child death, which ultimately confuses the couple on what is truly going on. This then translates to the reader and allows them to picture themselves in the actual story as well. It also may even become relatable to a few, where the outcome of an traumatic event may disconnect people from reality and force people to distance themself from coming back together again.
Robert Fross effectively creates a writing that had purpose and projects raw emotion coming from the different personalities of the main characters. The author includes a personal touch to add ethos in this poem. Just like the man in the poem, they were both farmers who lost a kid at a young age. As seen in this poem, there are two main characters. The husband and wife, which have different ways of coping with the loss. You can tell the woman is more sensitive, inconsolable, feeling more distraught than the husband, whereas the husband is not heartless, he just copes differently and is focusing more on what he can control now: getting his wife to stay. As a farmer, this method of coping could come from the influence in his work. As life goes on, he knows crops eventually die out or don’t make it, so he may be more matured on the way of life, where the woman just wants any sort of emotion out of him.
One of the most heart wrenching lines was when she called him out saying that if he ever had any feelings, “ you that dug…with your own hand—how could you?—his little grave… Making gravel leap and leap in air”, and when he came back inside after he finished digging, he could, “sit there with the stains on your shoes…Of the fresh earth from your own baby’s grave-And talk about your everyday concerns’. As if he was unaffected that he was digging his own child’s grave, and continued on with his life, like this was all an inconvenience. The pathos that the author includes is the best rhetorical device that Robert Frost utilizes. This is a heart breaking and very emotional poem with the pain the family is going through after losing kid and eventually their life together afterwards. It provokes a different kind of sadness from the audience, with different emotions from the characters such as anger, emptiness, confused, sadness, and much more.
Especially when the husband realizes why the wife is staring outside, and she cried, “ ‘Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t,’”, while the husband exclaims, “‘Can’t a man speak of his own child he’s lost?’”. Pathos is also presented towards the end when the couple is going back and forth, where the man is desperate for his wife, “You—oh, you think the talk is all. I must go—Somewhere out of this house. How can I make you—’” when she threatens leave. This technique of the husband and wife interrupting themselves allows for an emotion filled ending.
In the poem “Home Burial”, the author, Robert Frost, effectively uses the language and lifestyle of people who have gone through a tragedy in their life to convey a realist encounter to his readers. With the help of many rhetorical devices throughout this entire short poem, the reader feels like they are physically on the staircase with the couple and it allows them to connect with the the anger of the wife, and the sadness and desperateness of the husband. Shown in all of his poems, he acknowledges the audience, brings you in, and then makes you feel as if you are standing right there with the characters in his stories.