The Man He Killed Summary Analysis Theme

The Man He Killed Summary Analysis Theme 


The Man He Killed Summary Analysis Theme


"The Man He Killed", first published in 1902, has a message that is timeless; its subject matter is the curious nature of war. The poem itself comes to no great or deep understanding of war, nor does it propogandize against war. 
This article will fully explore the poem The Man He Killed Summary Analysis Theme Questions Answers. 


Summary Analysis Theme Questions Answers of the Poem The Man He Killed 


The Man He Killed by Thomas Hardy
Poem Text:

Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

But ranged as infantry,
And staring face yo face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

I shot him dead because - 
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That's clear enough; although

He thought he'd 'list, perhaps, 
Off-hand like - just as I -
Was out of work - had sold his traps -
No other reason why.
 
Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You'd treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half a crown.

Summary of the poem The Man He Killed:

Stanza 1:
The speaker begins by talking about an unnamed man. We are not told who he is right away. We are introduced to him as the poet wonders what would have happened in a different situation. He says that if he had met the man  he's talking about under normal circumstances, for example, in a bar or an inn, they probably would have shared many a drink.

Stanza 2:
In this stanza, we are finally given a definite answer about this unnamed man of the previous stanza. The man was a soldier in the war the speaker fought in. We are given more details as he tells us that the man he could have shared drinks with was a soldier of the opposite camp and that they were fighting face to face, that is, fighting each other. He describes how both of them shot at each other at the same time, but it's the other soldier who succumbs to the bullet. This indicates that either the speaker was quicker than his opponent, or that his aim was better. However, the underlying point was that the speaker shot his opponent down.

Stanza 3:
Here the speaker reiterates the death of his opponent in the first line. He tries to justify it by telling us that he was the enemy. He harps on the soldier being his enemy, although he can't confidently give a reason why the soldier was his enemy. He stops, and feels unsure of what he means. He uses the word 'because' twice, as he tries to straighten his excuse out in his mind. This is proved by his use of the word, 'of course' by which he means killing one's foe was a given in certain situations and it was nothing out of ordinary during war. And his inconstancy ends the sentence in a cliffhanger, which is continued in the next stanza.

Stanza 4:
In stanza 4, the speaker's 'although' is expanded so as to continue his sardonic justification. The poet surmises that the soldier he shot, had perhaps enlisted in the army just for the sake of it, or probably because he had no job and no money, like himself. This is also the stanza where his survivor's guilt creeps in, especially when he realises the soldier he killed was a man like him, in dire need of employment. 

Stanza 5:
Here, the poet talks about the curious nature of war through the speaker. He says that the senselessness of war lies in the fact that one often has to shoot a fellow, with whom, in other circumstances, one would share drinks, or help in times of financial crisis. The tone is kept light all throughout yet there is a certain bite in the lines the speaker utters because he realises the ridiculousness of it all.

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Theme of the poem The Man He Killed:

War:
In thinking about his actions on the battlefield, the speaker in "The Man He Killed" must confront the nature of warfare. The voice that speaks is not Hardy's own; it belongs to a character he created. Ironically, the speaker best expresses Hardy's views on war by what he omits from his argument. Because he balks at drawing the obvious conclusion, the reader is forced to do it for him and conclude that war is murderous and wrong.

Theme of Conflict:
The narrator's main dilemma is that he cannot reconcile two very different situations. On the one hand there is the congenial setting of the inn where men buy each other drinks and loan each other money; on the other is the field of battle where men kill each other. The narrator cannot explain how, in each situation, two men could have such converse relationship. The contrast is all the more poignant because from the very start of the poem, the narrator reveals himself as preferring the inn, although he has committed an act completely anti-thetical to its spirit. 

Style of the poem The Man He Killed:

"The Man He Killed" is constructed simply ,with short meters, lilting rhythms, a colloquial manner of speech. The rhyme-scheme also is simple: The first and third lines in each of the five stanzas rhyme, as do the second and fourth lines, but what is interesting about the form of this poem is the intent of the line length. Most lines of the poem are written in trimeter but the third line in every stanza is longer, written in tetrameter. The poem is written as a dramatic monologue, a special technique of Hardy's. He creates a voice not his own to speak in his poems, and this is indicated by the quotation marks bracketing the poem.

Critical Analysis of the poem The Man He Killed:

"The Man He Killed" is written in the form of a dramatic monologue, and when it was first published, Thomas Hardy described the setting he had in his mind: "Scene: The settle of the Fox Inn, Stagfoot Lane, Characters: The speaker (a returned soldier) and his friends, natives of the Hamlet."
The first stanza is so warm-hearted and lacking in rancor, it belies the fact that he killed the man about whom he is speaking. The speaker talks casually and warmly of the inn, creating a setting that harshly contrasts with the battlefield where he encountered this man. It is apparent that the speaker feels a bond with his victim, because the poem opens with an air of regret; if we had only met in a tavern like this one, we would have had a fine time together and we might have become friends. Unfortunately their encounter was in a completely different setting where they had predetermined roles; their only possible roles were as enemies. It seems the most natural action in the world that infantry men would shoot at and possibly kill each other. 
But while they stood there on the battlefield, 'staring face to face', the speaker had time to notice that the man he was shooting at was probably no different than himself. It is that knowledge that confuses the speaker and makes him struggle to grasp the reason for his act. The obvious reason - "That's clear enough" is that the men were enemies. But no matter how he tries to convince himself, he cannot get beyond the word "foe". He thinks over this explanation that fails to reassure him, and almost involuntarily, he imagines his victim as a man like himself, who had joined the army without much forethought. They were out of work and needed jobs, " No other reason why."

The Man He Killed Questions Answers:


1. How does the poet shows the anti-war attitude in the poem "The Man He Killed"?
Ans: The poem, "The Man He Killed" by Thomas Hardy reeks of the poet’s anti-war attitude. Through the voice of the speaker the poet tries to reveal the pity underlying war and thereby tries to make the people disillusioned of war. Here the poet’s voice of protest for the inhuman massacre in war is mixed with a muffled mockery at the selfishness and ruthlessness of the civilians and politicians who patronize war. 

2. What would the speaker have done if he had met the man whom he killed in any place other than battlefield?
Ans: It is apparent that the speaker feels a bond with his victim, because the poem opens with an air of regret. If they had only met in a tavern, they would have had a fine time together and they might have become friends. There may have such a congenial setting of the inn where they may buy each other drinks and loan each other money.

3. Why did the speaker have to kill the other soldier?
Ans: While the speaker stood there in the battlefield "staring face to face" with his enemy, he had notice that the man he was shooting at was probably no different than himself. It is that knowledge that confuses the speaker and makes him struggle to grasp the reason for his act. The obvious reason - "That's clear enough" - is that the other soldier was his enemy. So he killed the other soldier only out of the act of warmanship, but there is not anything logical implications. 

4. Why according to the speaker did the other soldier enlist himself in the army?
Ans: The speaker here tries to speculate about the man whom he has just killed in the battlefield and tries to find out probable reasons of being enlisted in the army. Probably he has enlisted himself in war because he was out of work, but not because of any motivated thought. He took part without much prior-thought about the possible consequences, including the situation he has just encountered. He might enlist in war because he had to sell his "traps" which we can read as "possession".

5. How does the speaker justify his act of killing the other soldier?
Ans: The speaker tries to justify himself after killing his enemy soldier in battlefield. As they are in a battlefield staring "face to face" with two guns set against each other, so they had to shoot at his enemy. But the poet is not fully convinced with the excuse by saying the other soldier his enemy. The best he can come up with a consolation: because he was my enemy, I killed him. But the emptiness of the response is evident in the effort of the speaker must make to reassure himself that such reasoning is legitimate. 

6. Do you think the soldier whom did the speaker kill was really his foe?
Ans: The speaker is not fully convinced that he, himself and the the man whom he killed are really "foe". Infact, the speaker finds similarity between himself and the man on the point of being enlisted in war. Probably they enlisted in army casually without any predetermined thought as they were out of work and needed some money. As a result, they have been set face to face "ranged" almost like two guns pointed at each other. The lack of conviction in the speaker's voice about the necessity of killing the enemy man determines the fact that the soldier who fights and kills wach other in battlefield just follows the order rather than knowing what it is they are doing.

7. What is the message of the poem The Man He Killed?
Ans: The poem itself comes out with the message of futility of war. The poem itself comes out with no deep or great understanding of war, nor does it propogandize against war. It simply puts a question about the utility of war. The poem puts a message that is timeless; its subject matter is the curious nature of war that allows for such behaviour as killing a man with whom, under any other situation except battlefield, they may share drinks. Thus the poem puts a question how in two different situations the two men could have such converse relationship. 

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