Death of a Hired Man
Introduction and Context
Published in 1915, ‘Death of a Hired Man’ deals with death, much like other Frost poems such as ‘Home Burial’. In fact, these two poems share certain similarities, in that they are both dramatic dialogues between a husband and wife, allowing their thoughts and characteristic to be portrayed clearly to the reader. Set on a farm, Frost writes the poem displaying the gendered stereotypes of men and women of the time, and how they act towards each other. Frost himself lived on a farm for a great portion of his life, hiring men and being hired by men, he had a wife and understood what it was like to live on what he grew, not earning high income. These topics can be seen as we read through and explain the poem.
Mary sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step,
She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage
To meet him in the doorway with the news
And put him on his guard. ‘Silas is back.’
She pushed him outward with her through the door
And shut it after her. ‘Be kind,’ she said.
She took the market things from Warren’s arms
And set them on the porch, then drew him down
To sit beside her on the wooden steps.
The opening line of this poems sets a scene of a women, Mary, “musing on the lamp-flame” immediately a gendered stereotype can be assumed, as she is a woman, she tends to lose track of thought, getting caught up with insignificant things such as the flame, but then Warren comes and Mary is seen to function again, being pulled out of her dystopia. Here the reader is provoked to assume that Warren is violent, harsh or just unkind towards Silas, as he is told to “be kind”. Immediately a sort of gender stereotype is established as Mary “tip-toes” down the passage and shows compassion as she tells Warren to “be kind” these are all associated with the female gender and can be seen more as the poem goes on. Warren is seen as being submissive to his