The Insensitive, Selfish Husband of Home Burial
Even in the closest of relationships, the death of a baby can separate and form a wedge between a husband and wife. Husbands and wives tend to handle the process of mourning differently, not only because of the differences between male and female, but also because of personality and the social molding in one's upbringing. In the poem, "Home Burial," Robert Frost gives a glimpse of the conflicts caused by non-communication and misunderstanding between a husband and wife upon the death of their first and only child. Their conflict is rooted in part in the husband's selfishness, revealed by his insensitivity, narrow-mindedness, and pride.
The husband's selfishness is reflected in his unconscious insensitivity to his wife's feelings. The death of a child is extremely hard for anyone to deal with, but it seems to be an impossible task for the man's wife Amy. Even in just walking down the stairs from a window overlooking their family graveyard, her frequent "Looking back over her shoulder at some fear" (3) is a sign of Amy's inability to let go of her emotional hurt. The husband seems to be blind to her concern, for he has to ask her, "What is it you see / From up there always?for I want to know" (6?7). It is not until he goes to the window and looks out for awhile that he finally makes the connection that his wife is hurting from the sight of ". . . the child's mound?" (30). Amy tries to run away from confrontation with her grief, for she ". . . slid[es] downstairs; And turn[s] on [her husband] with . . . a daunting look, . . ." (32?33). The air between them might have begun to clear if her husband had not lost his temper and lashed out saying, "Can't a man speak of his own child he's lost?" (35). This statement shows how self-centered his mourning has made him since his reference to himself does not acknowledge Amy's importance as the other parent of their lost baby. Still, he tries once again to bring the matter to a discussion asking her, "Let me into your grief" (59). Then he slips in another jab saying, "I do think, though, you overdo it a little" (62). In frustration, his insensitivity gives way to his temper, and he repeats, "A man can't speak of his own child that's dead" (70). He is so single-minded, he can't see that Amy does not want to let go of her grief because she fears the baby will be forgotten if she does.
The husband's selfishness is also evident in his narrow-mindedness when, looking out the window and finally seeing the child's grave, he admits, "I never noticed it from here before. / I must be wonted to it?that's the reason" (21?22). He has buried the baby in the family graveyard, and now it is time to go on with life and its duties. He has dealt with death before and has learned to accept it as natural, a part of life; he just accepts "The little graveyard where [his] people are!" (23). He feels time heals the hurt of loss, for he tells his wife, "We...