Explication of "The Man He Killed"
In "The Man He Killed," Thomas Hardy demonstrates a sense of disgust for war, by comparing two men, who could have grown up together, and are now fighting against each other for someone else's cause. The speaker, a young man who has served his country and killed an opposing soldier, relates to the man he has killed. This is a closed form style poem with dark undertones of the senselessness of war.
In the first stanza, the young man describes meeting the man he's killed in an ancient inn, rather than on a battlefield. He does not reveal himself as a soldier until the third stanza, and clearly in the last stanza when he mentions war. When he speaks of what he's done, "I shot him dead because--/Because he was my foe." he attempts to clarify, if not justify his reasoning for shooting another man. He mentions that he was also being shot at, but in the end, it was simply because the other man was his foe. He then illustrates the similarities that he shared with the soldier, "Off-hand like--just as I--/Was out of work--had sold his traps-/No other reason why." The last stanza states that war is curious, in any other situation you might sit with these men (no longer your enemies), at a bar or help them out monetarily.
In order to more clearly illustrate his disgust for the pointless effects of war, the speaker in the poem is a normal man. This is shown when he actually compares himself to the soldier, in the language that is used, and at the end with the use of the word "you." This makes the poem about anybody, giving it a more personal feeling. This is one of the strongest ways of relating the irony of war to the listener.
Speaking of the many similarities between the two men, makes them seem as if they could have been best friends. He says that he might have helped the other man to ten or twenty dollars, and this is not something that would just happen between acquaintances. The were both out of work, had to...
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