Robert Frost's dramatic dialogue poem, "Home Burial," is the story of a short, but important, episode in the marriage of a typical New England farm couple. They are "typical" because their "public" personalities are stoic and unimaginative, and because their lives are set within the stark necessities of northeastern American farm life. Yet, they are also typical in that their emotions are those one might expect of young parents who have abruptly and, to them, inexplicably lost their baby. Although their emotions would not, one presumes, be openly displayed to the community, the poem's reader is privileged to view them personally and intimately through the small window opened by the poet.
To some extent, it is easy to sympathize with both husband and wife in "Home Burial." Both are grieving, not only the loss of their child, but also the perceived loss of one another. Yet their loss of each other, as such things often occur, is driven by their own self-absorption and insensitivity to one another's feelings. That he intimidates her becomes evident near the beginning of the poem, as he insists upon knowing what she sees at the top of the stairs:
He said to gain time: "What is it you see?"
Mounting until she cowered under him.
"I will find out now -- you must tell me, dear"
Nevertheless, the intimidation seems unintentional. He is trying to make connection with her, trying to understand, although his insistance sounds peremptory. Although she "cowers," this action emphasizes her perception of the situation, not his.
She has designated herself the sufferer and him the tormentor, a designation which becomes clear immediately:
She, in her place, refused him any help,
With the least sti...
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...y and gender expectation. The husband subscribes to a patriarchal view of the relationship of husband and wife, while Amy's view is distorted by an innate inability to empathize with any "other," particularly a male. She is unbalanced by grief, but one may suspect that her lack of understanding of her husband is a pre-existing condition, a condition which has already motivated a breakdown in marital understanding. The child's death, then, is simply a trigger for a stronger reaction than any previous ones. Amy seems very young, with a lack of insight peculiar to the immature. This view of the matter leaves room for hope that the relationship may eventually stabilize and result in some practical unity.
O'Donnell, W.G. "Robert Frost and New England: A Revaluation." Robert Frost. Ed. James M. Cox. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1962. 46-57.
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