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I'm reading "A Roadside Stand" by Robert Frost, which you can read online. Below I have given the particular paragraph.

In the line -

To put these people at one stroke out of their pain

Robert Frost wants to kill the country people at one stroke to relieve their pain.

However, in the line -

And offer to put me gently out of my pain

he asks the reader to put him 'gently' out of his pain.

What does he particularly mean by 'gently' here? Does he mean 'slow death'? How could we put him 'gently' out of his pain?

No, in country money, the country scale of gain,
The requisite lift of spirit has never been found,
Or so the voice of the country seems to complain,
I can't help owning the great relief it would be,
To put these people at one stroke out of their pain.
And then next day as I come back into the sane,
I wonder how I should like you to come to me
And offer to put me gently out of my pain.

  • 3
    I think he realises on the next day what an atrocity he would have committed and wonders how he would have reacted if the reader came and did to him what the narrator did to the people in line 5 – Narusan Mar 5 '18 at 12:39
3

Whatever be the method, it's not likely to be a slow death. A slow, drawn-out death would only prolong the suffering, thus defeating the purpose of relieving the pain of the victim.

Frost is talking about euthanasia here, and euthanasia is usually seen as humane, unlike say capital punishment. I don't think Frost is as concerned about the means of killing as he is with intent behind it - the "good" intention of relieving the suffering of life (compare with the "evil" intention of punishment, in the case of capital punishment). One is therefore easily associated with gentle actions, but not the other. Think of a doctor administering poison to a patient suffering a painful disease and of an executioner doing the same to a criminal - the former is at once associated with a gentleness, a kindness in the action, but the latter evinces brutality and ruthlessness.

If you absolutely must have a method, think of how euthanasia is likely to be performed, or modern day humane executions: it could very well be via poison, but not likely to be hanging.

  • Thanks muru for the answer! I got your points. Also, for some reason I thought gently has been used in the poem as 'gradually/slowly'. Now, I'm clear though :D – Rohit Shekhawat Mar 7 '18 at 7:42
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@muru's answer is once again correct, but I do feel there's a little additional nuance to explore here.

Frost is actually mocking himself with the modifier "gently." If someone offers to kill you, you're unlikely to care whether or not they are "gentle" about it. When Frost puts himself in the place of the prospective victim, he can finally seen how ridiculous, patronizing, insulting and alarming his offer of euthanasia is.

He wouldn't care to be put out of his pain, gently or not, and neither would the rural poor.

  • I admit on my first reading I took the first part to mean that he wanted to put them out of his misery, which is a much less charitable view! Yes, he is belatedly relenting after considering the golden rule. – Will Crawford Mar 15 '18 at 15:01

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