Home Burial by Robert Frost: Summary and Analysis

This dramatic poem 'Home Burial' was written and published in 1914. In this dramatic narrative Frost has depicted a critical situation arising between husband and wife over the death of their son. There is the drama of social adjustment in human relationship. The son dies. This breaks the wife completely. She is standing at the top of the staircase and peeps through the window and sees that her husband is digging the grave of the child. On returning home, he talks of daily concerns.


Robert Frost



This further strengthens the wife's conviction that her husband is not touched by the tragedy at all. The husband tries to explain his position to her, but she is unable to follow him. This creates a tension between them. The wife becomes almost hysterical and desperate due to the tragedy and tries to leave the home. The husband requests her to stay and talk to him about her grief; he does not realize why she is irritated with him for expressing his grief in a different way. Grief-stricken, the wife lashes out at him, convinced of his apathy toward their dead child. The husband accepts her rage, but the gap between them remains. She leaves the house as he angrily threatens to drag her back by force. It is a highly suggestive poem, and the title is the most significant, since it does not only tell us something about the burial of the dead child, but also about the burial of domestic peace.

The poem is about two tragedies: first, the death of a young child or the burial of a son, and second, the death of a marriage or the burial of a relationship. Though the death of the child is considered as the prime cause of the couple’s conflict, the larger conflict that devastated the marriage is the couple’s incapability to communicate with one another. They both do not try to come out of their zone of grief and don't become the supporter of each other at the crucial time of need. Both are grief stricken at the loss of the child, but none of them is able to realize the way that their partner chooses to express their distress.

Home Burial is perhaps the most intense of Frost's dramatic dialogues dramatic as Chekhov and Sherwood Anderson were, with gesture, movement, tone of voice, and "sentencing" the instruments of the tragedy. Grief at the loss of a first child spins the plot, and neither the wife nor the husband is at fault; but the conflict between the father, a countryman, and the mother, a city-bred, is nonetheless pitiful and terrible. She is hysterical, and sees her husband as a stranger, yet she speaks one kind of truth— how the living turn quickly away from the dead— and she "won't have grief so" if she can change it. To the man, it seems only right that he should have dug his child's grave himself, in his family graveyard, visible from their bedroom window. He is insensitive enough to repeat a country saying about rotting birch fences to his wife without realizing how the horror of decay has augmented her grief. Yet his own grief is as real as it is controlled. He has begun to accept the death of his boy as she is yet unable to. And he speaks another kind of truth in alternating gusts of humility and frustration, love and anger, as he argues their reconciliation. The issue between them is mostly unresolved. The wife gives out the threat: 'You— oh, you think the talk is all. I must go—somewhere out of this house. How can I make you—But time, presumably, will resolve their differences. In Home Burial the strange and the familiar are strikingly blended. The talk is the talk of everyday, the accents of a man and wife facing a sort of crisis. But the situation is strange—common in words, uncommon in the experience.

Frost brings larger issues into the forefront issues such as husband-wife relationship or that between man and woman, or life and death. The title of the poem is highly significant; it suggests not only the burial of the dead infant, but also of the domestic harmony. Home Burial, in beauty and grandeur, ranks with The Death of the Hired Man. Frost's these two dramatic narratives can favorably be compared with Robert Browning's peculiarly intense and character-analyzing dramatic monologues like Andrea Del Sarto, Fra Lippo Lippi, My Last Duchess and The Pauper Witch of Graf-ton (in Two Witches).

In Home Burial, blank verse has been employed very effectively. It gives expression to different shades of feeling and thought and is highly helpful in revealing the characters involved. The main interest of the poem is the revelation of characters in 'conflict'. The husband and the wife are distinct personalities in the poem. The woman is, no doubt, hysterical and not prepared to hear the logic of unfeeling man; the man is considerate and manly. To express the intensities and interruptions, such a masterly use of monosyllables is notable.

Browse by Poem

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Biography of Robert Frost

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