Robert Frost: Poems

is their communication gap between husband and wife in home burrial?

robert frost "home burrial"

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In this narrative poem, Frost describes a tense conversation between a rural husband and wife whose child has recently died. As the poem opens the wife is standing at the top of a stair 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 .The wife is upset about her husband’s lack of emotion, which causes her to have thoughts in her head questioning the relationship she has with her husband. Inconsolable, the wife lashes out at him convinced of his apathy toward their dead child. The husband mildly accepts her angers but the rift between them remains. She leaves the house as he angrily threatens to drag her back by force. She tries to leave the house he importunes her to stay, for once and share her grief with him. He doesn’t understand what it is he does that offends her or why she should grieve outwardly so long. She resents him deeply for his composure, what she sees as his hard-heartedness. She vents some of her anger and frustration and he receives it, but the distance between them remains. She opens the door to leave, as he calls after her. This poem is a dramatic poem, using free-form dialogue rather than strict rhythmic schemes. The poem describes two tragedies first, the death of a young child, and second, the death of a marriage. As such, the title Home Burial can be read as a tragic double entendre. Although the death of the child is the catalyst of the couple’s problems the larger conflict that destroys the marriage is the couple’s inability to communicate with one another. Both characters feel grief at the loss of the child, but neither is able to understand the way that their partner chooses to express their sorrow. The husband is more accepting of the natural cycle of life and death in general, but also chooses to grieve in a more physical manner by digging the grave for his child. Ironically, the husband’s expression of his grief is completely misunderstood by the wife she views his behavior as a sign of his callous apathy. Each character is isolated from the other at opposite ends of the staircase. In order for the marriage to succeed each character must travel an equal distance up or down the staircase in order to meet the other. The husband attempts to empathize with his wife moving up the staircase toward her and essentially moving backward in his own journey towards acceptance of his child’s death. Even so the wife is unable to empathize with her husband and only moves down the staircase after he has already left his position at the foot. When the wife moves down the staircase she assumes the upper hand in the power struggle between the two by ensuring that her husband cannot move between her and the door and stop her from leaving. Without the physical capacity to keep her from leaving the husband must attempt to convince her to stay through communication something that, as the poem demonstrates, has been largely unsuccessful throughout their marriage. In addition, the poem itself is based on the interaction between this young couple who are struggling to cope with the loss of their first child and the home burial that they carried out.