The poems Janice Mirikitani’ Suicide Note, and Frost’s Out, Out are both about the pain of death. In Suicide Note, Janice Mirikitani writes about a young Asian American girl student who takes her life by jumping out of the window. The poem comprises the thoughts and feelings that she relays through her suicide note. This format allows the reader to get a sense of what causes an individual to commit suicide. The poem Shows the despair of a college girl, who feels insufficient or “not good enough” (Mirikitani in Huang 233, line 8). The suicide note is directed to the girl’s parents and provides a look into the girl’s life as she prepares for death. On the other hand, Frost’s Out, Out, is a narrative poem which provides an account of one event: the death of a boy in a farm accident. The poem represents a story told by Frost as he imagines what might have happened. He recreates the story from the details he had obtained regarding the event from a local newspaper. The two poems are not only similar because they share the theme of the pain of death but also because of other distinct similarities and differences surrounding death. This paper compares and contrasts Janice Mirikitani’s Suicide Note and Robert Frost’s Out, Out in terms of the nature and cause of death.
The first similarity between the two poems in terms of the nature of death is that the deaths occur as a result of people working hard to please and take care of their families. In Suicide Note, the girl is working hard at school to please her parents. She feels that her efforts indicate that she is not good enough, or pretty enough (Mirikitani, line 41). In addition, the girl feels that she has disappointed her parents through her failures despite having worked hard to please them. “I apologize for disappointing you” (Mirikitani line 5 and 6) This is the pain that brings her to her death. In Out, Out, the boy works hard to provide for his family. The line “And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,” (Frost 51 line 7) indicates the incessant effort that the boy exerts while working. The line “He must have given the hand” (Frost 51 line 17) may also indicate a sort of sacrifice on the boy’s part for putting his life in danger for the purpose of providing for his family.
The second similarity between the two poems is that they are stories told by narrators. In Suicide Note, the narrator presents the suicide note the girl may have written to her parents. The benefit of using the narrator in this case is that she provides an unbiased account of the events surrounding the suicide. In addition, the narrator gives the story after the death has already occurred, thereby making the reader take the issues raised by the girl seriously. This is because the narrator gives an idea of what may have induced the college girl to commit suicide despite the finality of death. Out, out is also told by a narrator who reconstructs the likely events surrounding the farm accident suffered by the boy. The use of a narrator in this case provides a good perspective for the reader to rely on because it is an unbiased account.
The third similarity between the two poems is that they both show the finality, seriousness and unexpected nature of death. In Suicide Note, the use of a narrator underlines the finality of death because it shows that the girl is no longer available to give an account of the suicide afterwards. The line “they will bury my bird bones beneath a sturdy pine” (Mirikitani line 57) indicates that all that is left to do after the suicide is to bury the girl’s corpse. In Out, out, the boy dies quickly and to the disbelief of everyone around him. “They listened at his heart. Little—less—nothing—and that ended it” (Frost 51ine 27). This shows the finality of death, which is depicted in the poem as an “end.”
One of the points of contrast between the two poems is that while in Suicide Note, the pain of death is psychological and emotional, in Out, out; the pain of death is physical. In Suicide Note, the girl feels a lot of emotional pain for not being appreciated by her parents. She does not perform well in school despite her efforts and tries hard to make her parents understand. However, her parents do not appreciate her efforts or even her looks. On the other hand, in Out, out, the boy feels the physical pain of cutting himself with a saw. “He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath,” (Frost 51 line 25) shows the anguish that the boy goes through after cutting his hand. He only sees the negative side of things and must have been in great pain.
The second point of contrast is that while Suicide Note is the story of a girl who takes her own life, Out, out is the story of a boy who faces death unintentionally. In Suicide Note, the girl willingly takes her own life. The lines “My sacrifice I will drop bone by bone, perched on the ledge of my womanhood,” highlight the suicide event (32, 33 & 34). On the other hand, in Out, out, the boy meets death by bad luck and not by design.” Leaped out at the boy’s hand, or seemed to leap,” shows that the boy was cut by the saw out of bad fortune.
Janice Mirikitani’ Suicide Note, and Out, Out both present stories on the nature of death, and the cause of death, while Suicide Note, is a poem on a suicide by a college girl, Out, out is about an accident which happens to a farm boy. The two poems have similarities, and differences surrounding death and how it is explained in the two events. Both poems show death as a result of the attempt to please and take care of one’s family. In Suicide Note, the college girl makes tremendous effort to excel at school to no avail. Her parents show their discontent and displeasure, torturing the girl emotionally to the point of taking her life. Out, out is a poem about a boy who works hard to provide for his family until the accident kills him. Both poems are relayed by narrators and show the seriousness and finality of death. However, the poems are different because of the nature and the cause of death. Overall, the two poems provide unique looks into the phenomenon of death.
Frost, Robert. The Road Not Taken, Birches, and Other Poems. Claremont, Calif: Claremont Canyon Press, 2010. Print.
Huang, Guiyou. Asian American Poets: A Bio-Bibliographical Critical Sourcebook. Westport, Conn. [u.a.: Greenwood Press, 2002. Print.