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The Beginning…

“We’re down ten percent.”

“Down ten, is that an improvement?”

“By a half a percent, which, two weeks out is nothing significant. We’re at the stage where we need to go to the north and beg for votes. Then we need to go to the south and convince a few green liberals to take a chance on us because there’s nothing to be achieved by having morals. Do you think that may work?”

Dan looked up from his paperwork. He let out a long sigh. Two weeks ago it had been simpler. He was winning in the polls and the opposition seemed destined to destroy themselves rather than him. Then that story had broken. He’d thought about it a hundred times since then. Who leaked it? How could it be spun? Was it fatal? The answers were always a less than comforting ‘don’t know’. He frowned and looked back down at the speech in front of him. It was pretty much the same speech he had given every day for two weeks. It was off message, but it had to be now. There was an election which had to be won.

“Whose poll was it?”

“YouGov, but the others have similar stories, with a spread of anywhere between 7 and 15 percent.”

Dan looked over his glasses at Matt, his advisor. It had been Matt who had suggested this whole thing. Running as an independent. Fighting a battle against three main parties, with all the financial clout of a homeless clown. Fighting with an ambitious political reform manifesto. Dan had thought he would be so far out of it so quickly that by this stage he could pretty much be happy sunning himself somewhere while the remaining pieces of the country were torn at by the political hyenas. Two months ago he’d given that speech in London. That was where it all changed, where he had announced himself to the country as the man with a plan. The fresh face of forty.

He sucked on the end of his pen and glanced back down at his papers. For someone who had been talking to people for two months, Dan now found himself lost for words. Logic told him to give it up. To throw his lot in with one of the other guys. It didn’t really matter which one, none of them were particularly inspiring. He hadn’t listened to logic in a long time though. His gut had pulled him through. And his gut was telling him to stick it out now. After all, he reasoned, there was nothing to hide. Yes, the spectre of her hung over him like a heavy fog, but it was a private matter, and he was determined for it to stay as such. Morals, the things that no longer mattered. They were likely to be his downfall. He closed his eyes.

“We’re here” Matt’s deep tone echoed slightly down the bus. Dan jumped up in an effort to reinvigorate himself. Another session of shaking hands and smiling to voters. As he stepped off the bus the response was the same as it had been for two weeks, a mixture of cheering and booing. He strode out into the rain and waved to the crowd. They didn’t have to be there for him. As he made his way down the corridor to the hall where he was due to give the speech again Dan found himself thinking about the history of the building. It was Victorian obviously enough, with enough modern updates for it to still be fresh to the casual observer. He reached the back of the stage. The crowd inside the hall were restless, he could sense their hunger. It was his blood that at least half of them wanted. The rest just wanted him to reignite the stalling campaign. The man on stage was talking to them, calming them down slightly. As the announcer shouted his name, Dan took a deep breath. And then another one. He already knew what he was going to say. He patted his breast pocket to ensure that his speech was in there. Another deep breath and then he walked out onto the stage. The old stage which must have seen a great many performances in its time.

“Thank you all for turning out here today. I appreciate that the weather is rubbish and that you are all busy people, so thank you.” Dan glanced at his speech, his only speech. The speech he had pretty much used in some form for the past two weeks. He looked up at the audience. His audience. They were hanging onto to his silence. Dan smiled slightly as a wave of clarity washed over him. “Ladies and gentlemen, I was going to give you a speech about the need for reform, about the need to make major improvements in our health care system and our policing system. I was going to role out to you the lines about foreign policy and diplomatic interests. But I’m not going to do that. You folks who have braved that weather to get in to listen to me do not want to hear about that stuff, and if you do, well, I’ve got my original speech here for you if you want to come and read it afterwards.

“Ladies and gentlemen. Two weeks ago my illegitimate daughter died. She had┬áleukaemia. She was my daughter by my mistress. You all know this. The tabloids and the broadsheets have splashed her across their pages like some sort of monster. She was four. I ask you here, can a four year old be a monster? My answer is no, and I will not sully her memory by fighting a dirty campaign against my opponents. That was the last time I shall discuss this affair. It has little to do with how I plan to run this country. Instead, my solutions to repairing this broken country are simple. So simple that they do not need to be repeated again to you intelligent people.

We get told, as politicians, that the image is the important thing. That it matters what you look like, what shoes you are wearing or shirt you have on. It isn’t. What matters is the flesh and blood. The person underneath. Whether they are a good person or a bad person. Whether they are genuine or deceitful. I was just thinking about the history of this hall. How many great people this hall has seen. How many great performances have been made on this stage, from this very spot. I have also been thinking about our country’s history, the heritage of thousands of years has culminated in this. A fragmented society with a broken political system led by broken leaders. I am not broken. I am bare and I am raw, but I am not broken. I am young, and I am alone, but I am not broken. When you leave this hall today you will not remember the crumbling Victorian stonework. You will not remember this paint-chipped stage or the musty smell of these curtains. You will remember that I am telling you now that these things can be repaired. This hall is broken but can be fixed. I want you to know that this hall will be great again. It will have great performers and great actors returning once more. This hall will not remain broken.

So when you go back out into that rain and look at the world around you. You look at the things which need fixing, which need care and attention. If these things are broken then they must be fixed. But they will not be fixed with words. Too often politicians say one thing but then do something else. Words, jokes, long rambling speeches which have no point or purpose. These don’t fix the walls, or paint the stage. If there is one thing which I want you to know it is this. The time for words has gone. The time for actions is here. I am here. Flesh and blood, and I am offering myself to you. Not as some political stunt. Not as some election gimmick. I am going to help rebuild this hall with you. And I shall not stop until this is completed. The longest journeys start with the smallest step. Well this is my step. I hope at least some of you will join me in taking it.”

Dan stepped off the stage. The crowd was silent now. He strode down the hall, between the rows of seats. He pushed the doors at the back of the hall open and heard one person begin to clap. He smiled to himself. It didn’t matter anymore if no-one else clapped, he had got to one person, and that was enough.

“Out, Out-” Robert Frost

The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them ‘Supper’. At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap–
He must have given the hand. However it was,
Neither refused the meeting. But the hand!
The boy’s first outcry was a rueful laugh.
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling. Then the boy saw all–
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man’s work, though a child at heart–
He saw all spoiled. ‘Don’t let him cut my hand off
The doctor, when he comes. Don’t let him, sister!’
So. But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then — the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed. They listened at his heart.
Little — less — nothing! — and that ended it.
No more to build on there. And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.

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The poem “Out, Out-” takes an idyllic northern American image “Five mountain ranges one behind the other/ Under the sunset far into Vermont” and turns it into a briefly tragic scene quickly lost amongst the hectic lives of the characters the poem introduces us to. Layered into this obvious tragedy, Frost intertwines the living with the object, with both taking on the others form during the course of the poem.

The role of the saw in the poem is obviously critical, and the personification of the object by the poet is an important point to note, we are quickly introduced to the saw, “snarling and rattling”, like a chained up angry dog, which later jumps from the boy’s hand as though unleashed with devastating force. The fact that such an inanimate object is given such life by such a simple personification, to the point of killing a human is an interesting one to consider. The saw is made intelligent too, appearing to know the word “Supper” and responding accordingly when the sister makes the call.

This tool then is obviously like any normal buzz saw (itself an interesting label with onomatopaeic qualities), so it must be through the fault of the operator that the saw is brought to life. It would only be through the carelessness of the boy operating it that the saw could get out of control, meaning that, if it were not for the demise of the character, anger would be a normal reaction to such a lack of control. However, we are given crucial bits of information which help us to feel sorry for the main character in the poem. The first, we are told, is that he is a boy, just a boy. During the process of having his hand severed, we are told he becomes a man, but it is important to remember that he remains a boy throughout the course of the poem.The second tool Frost uses to make us pity the boy, aside from his death, is the unsympathetic ending the poem has. As the two other characters return to their lives, we are given a potent reminder that the boy will not be returning to his.

————————————–

Other things to note:

  1. The significance of the line “The doctor put him in the dark of ether”.
  2. The boy’s initial response to the accident.
  3. The fading of life represented by the line “Little — less — nothing! — and that ended it.”
  4. The vague irony of him cutting wood for the stove but never knowing the fruit of his work, ie, his supper.
  5. The hint of religious connotation in the idea of the last supper.
  6. The significance of short sentences, “So.” and “But the hand!”
  7. The almost delicious juxtaposition of the line “The boy saw all” with the fact that it was the saw which had caused the problem in the first place.

Welcome…

Welcome to The Written Word. It is my hope to expand this blog to explore various books and poems in detail, looking at different themes, ideas, meanings, interpretations and images that they portray. As a former A Level English Lang/Lit student, I always enjoyed exploring poems and books beyond face value, and I hope to use this as a place to continue to do so. I make no apologies at this stage, as I must admit it is my desire to re-aquaint myself with the works of Robert Frost which has, in part at least, moved me into setting this blog up. However, I hope that this becomes much more than a Frost analysis, and will branch out, looking at the works of other poets and authors alike. There is, hopefully, much to come.