Study Guide

Home Burial Speaker

By Robert Frost

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We hear from a few different speakers in this poem.

The Fly on the Wall

First, we've got the third person narrator, who gives us lines of description and sets the scene. This narrator doesn't have much personality of his own, and he doesn't seem to be leaning one way or the other in this fight between husband and wife. He just tells us the facts—he did this, she said that—and lets the duo speak for themselves.

Hubby and Wifey

Then, of course, we've got our two main characters. Even though the poem never talks directly about a marriage, given that these two people live together, have had a child, and this poem was published in 1914, it's a safe assumption to make that the couple in this poem is married, however unhappily.

The man is more at home in this house than his wife. It's his family house, and the people in the graveyard on the property are his people. He also takes pride in his manliness. He's tough, and doesn't show his grief, if he's feeling it. This makes it so that it's pretty tough for him to communicate with his wife, but it also means that when he speaks, it's with a certain authority. He thinks he knows what's up and what's best. That probably makes conversation with the missus even tougher.

The wife, on the other hand, comes at this conversation from an entirely different perspective. She's floored by her grief about her dead child. She's inconsolable, and her entire views on life and death have been warped by her loss. Through most of the poem, her responses to her husband's demands are nonverbal. She's closed off to him, and it shows. When she does finally open up, his responses don't even come close to addressing her concerns.

And here we are, flies on the wall, just like our original narrator. You'd be forgiven if, as you listen to this couple go at it, you cringe a little bit from being an awkward bystander. That's exactly how you're supposed to feel. This is a serious fight with no simple solutions. So let's slink away and leave these two to it.

Heads Up

In a poem with three different speakers, it's easy to get muddled between them. So make sure you read slowly and carefully, paying attention to quotation marks, indentations, and stanza breaks so you can keep track of who's saying what.

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