Grief, Fear, and Anger in “Home Burial” By Robert Frost
In this narrative poem, the speaker describes a tense conversation between a husband and wife whose child has recently died. As the poem opens, the wife is standing at the top of a staircase looking at her child’s grave through the window. Her husband, at the bottom of the stairs, does not understand what she is looking at or why she has suddenly become so distressed. The wife resents her husband’s obliviousness and attempts to leave the house. The husband begs her to stay and talk to him about her grief; he does not understand why she is angry with him for manifesting his grief in a different way. Broken- heartedly, the wife lashes out at him, convinced of his apathy toward their dead child. The husband mildly accepts her anger, but the rift between them remains. She leaves the house as he angrily threatens to drag her back by force. In the poem “Home Burial” Robert Frost informs readers about his personal experience of his daughter’s death through grief, fear, and anger.
The setting of the poem automatically sets up the relationship between the characters. The wife stands at the top of the stairs, directly in front of the window overlooking the graveyard, while the husband stands at the bottom of the stairs, looking up at her. While the couple shares the tragedy of their child’s death, they are in conflicting positions in terms of dealing with their grief. With her position closest to the window, the wife is clearly still struggling with her grief over the loss of her baby as “She was starting down” (1:2). Incapable of moving on at this point in her life, the wife defines her identity in terms of the loss and would rather grieve for the rest of her. The husband has dealt with his sorrow more successfully, as evidenced by his position at the bottom of the staircase, close to the door and the outside world. As a farmer, the husband is more accepting of the natural cycle of...
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