Robert Frost Home Burial - Selfish Misery

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The Selfish Misery of Home Burial

Robert Frost's poem "Home Burial" is an intriguing portrait of a marital relationship that has gone wrong. Though at first glance it may seem that the cause for the couple's trouble is the death of their child, closer reading allows the reader to see that there are other serious, deeper-rooted problems at work. The couples differences in their approach to grieving is only the beginning of their problems.

Many of the real problems lie in the wife's self-absorbed attitude of consuming unhappiness and anger. Her outlook on her life and marriage is so narrow that she winds up making both her husband and herself victims of her issues. It is clear that Frost intended the reader to see through the dialogue of "Home Burial" how the selfish misery of one can wreak havoc on others, and how it may be impossible for such a situation to be overcome.

Modern readers might prefer to look at "Home Burial" from a feminist angle, insisting that the husband is at fault, and the wife is the victim of his lack of appropriate concern and communication. This is not the case, as the husband's concern for his wife is clearly shown throughout the poem. From the very beginning of the scene Frost illustrates this by the husband's attitude and approach. In the very first line the husband watches his wife as she looks out the window (line 1). Since immediately after she turns around he asks what she is so interested in, it is clear that he was thinking about what could be troubling her as he saw her on the stairs. Twice he refers to her as "dear" (12 and 44). It is not often the case that people who are wholly unsympathetic to another call that person by an endearment and contemplate their distress.

On th...

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...ind, stubborn anger the wife displays. A parent/child relationship could easily have the same problems with poor communication and misunderstanding. "Home Burial" can be seen as a commentary on selfish misery that destroys more than just the unhappy person. If only the wife would be willing to step back and listen to her husband, they might be able to salvage their marriage and have a happy life. However, the ending of the poem does not leave much hope for such reconciliation. It can be hoped that anyone reading "Home Burial" would be willing to do more than the wife was to save any relationships they may be struggling in, but the way Frost ends the poem implies he may see that hope as unrealistic.


Frost, Robert. "Home Burial." The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000. 792-794.
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