What contrast do you find between Warren and his wife Mary?

the-death-of-the-hired-manAnswer:  Warren and Mary are husband and wife, two characters beside the protagonist, Silas. The poet has depicted these two characters in such a way that the one stands out sharply in contrast with the other. Warren, the farmer, and master of the old servant Silas, is portrayed as a man callous to the human dignity and suffering of the hired man Silas. While Silas had worked on his farm, he wanted slightly higher wage than he was being given, just “Enough at least to buy tobacco with”. He was not satisfied with the salary that he got from Warren. But Warren did not give him any fixed pay. He said he could not, though he wished he could. Silas said someone else could pay him. In reply Warren told him someone else would have to pay him the wage he demanded. So Silas left Warren’s job at a time when Warren needed him most. Warren told his wife Mary that he did not mind his bettering himself if by leaving him Silas meant to be doing so. Warren guessed that there was someone at him trying to coax him off with pocket money. Now Silas has come back to Warren in winter when there is no work for him to do. In winter, he came when he was not needed. Warren was annoyed with him because he thought Silas left him when he had most wanted him. His attitude towards the old servant was one of aversion and non-acceptance. He did not try to realize the human dignity of the old servant. He looked upon him merely as an old servant. He did not even have any sympathy for his old age and infirmity. His wife rightly guessed what Warren might do to Silas—he might refuse him a stay in his house, or even drive him away cruelly. Warren’s cruel nature is apparent even to his wife Mary. Frost has depicted his almost inhuman nature with a few touches.


Warren’s wife, Mary is a sharp contrast to him. To state briefly she is very sympathetic towards Silas. When Silas came back after his travel away in search of a job, Mary could guess that Warren might treat him cruelly. So she told her husband, immediately after he returned from market, not to be unkind to Silas. She is extremely alert, and manages her husband in such a way that he does not get any opportunity to maltreat Silas. She argues with her husband in favor of Silas. Her womanly rather mother-like attitude to Silas is quite evident in her solicitation for Silas. A mother has all the affection, kindness and sympathy for her child, however bad or worthless he might be. Mary’s attitude towards Silas is like that of a mother to a worthless son. She knows all about Silas, that he is old and worthless. Yet she tries to save him from the possible rough treatment on the part of her husband. She wanted to take Silas to the lounge when she found him huddled at the barn-door. She even made bed for Silas’ rest for the coming night. Regards Silas offending Warren by leaving him when he most wanted him, she said it was to preserve him self-respect, and so it was not a matter for Warren to be annoyed at. She did not want her husband to maltreat Silas at this age and condition. So she pleaded with Warren in favor of Silas; she told him not to drive him away, or to maltreat him, or to even show him anger. When she told Warren that Silas had come home to die, Warren mocked her for her idea about home. He immediately retorted protesting against her conception of home, that “home is the place where, when you have to go there. They have to take you in.” It means that when the question arises as to whether a man be accepted as a member of a home, his position should be such that when he comes home, the other members of the home are bound to accept him. But Mary’s idea is quite the opposite. According to her, a home is one where a man is accepted whether he deserved it or not. It is not a question of his being worth of the home. Mary’s definition of a home is consistent with her attitude of acceptance to Silas even though he does not deserve to be a member of their household because he did not listen to Warren’s request to stay with him when he was needed most, and secondly because he was an old, decrepit man of little worth.


Mary wanted to mean that though Silas was of little worth, though he did not deserve to be a member of their family, they should accept him as someone who belonged to that home. Mary is actually .a woman full of the milk of human kindness. At some stage of her talk with her husband, she seems to be flowing with kindness and compassion for that helpless old servant. A natural scene is depicted in the poem. It was night and “part of the moon was falling down the west dragging the whole sky with it to the hills.” The moon symbolizes the source of radiating kindness. Its light fell on her lap. It means she was receiving kindness from an object of nature — nature which dispenses kindness for all, large and small. She put out her hand to the rays of the moons light which carried the soft aroma of the dew from garden bed to eaves. She did it as if she played unheard some tenderness that wrought on Warren who was seated beside her in the night. Imbued with the broad sympathy poured in on her, she could see that Silas was going to die, and Warren did not need to be afraid that he would leave him this time. The present excerpt gives us a clear idea about the type of woman that Mary is and her kind attitude and sympathy for the old servant, Silas. She was even apprehensive of the death of Silas. So she had a mental struggle with herself to ascertain whether Silas was dead or alive. When Warren had gone to see Silas’s, conditions, Mary was sitting alone waiting for her husband to return, and to see if the “sailing cloud” in the sky would “hit or miss the moon”. It hit the moon ultimately; the world was dimmed in the funeral light of the cloud-covered moon.

All this was possible only for a woman of great kindness and sympathy for the distressed people. Warren and Mary represent the two kinds of people who are diametrically opposite to each other. Mary stands for the kind, the compassionate, and the loving, and Warren, for the unkind, the callous and the unhelpful. They stand out in sharp contrast to each other.