War is hell. Nations have gone to war over land, resources and nationalistic pride. Many writers have depicted war as an absurd tragedy. Both “The Man He Killed” by Thomas Hardy and “Old Mother Savage” by Guy de Maupassant explore the theme that war is absurd because it makes enemies of those who would otherwise be friends.
First, the speaker of “The Man He Killed” discovers that war makes enemies of those who would otherwise be friends. The speaker of the poem is a soldier that is on the battlefield facing his enemy. In the first stanza, the speaker of the poem exclaims “Had he and I but met…we should have sat us down to wet right many a nipperkin”! In other words, the speaker of the poem means to say that if he had met his enemy during times of peace, they probably would have sat down to have a drink together. Furthermore, in the second stanza of the poem, it becomes increasingly clear that the speaker of the poem feels guilt over killing his enemy. To enumerate, the speaker of the poem shoots his enemy because he realizes that it is a kill or be killed confrontation. Above all, it is apparent that if not for the dreadful war that they both enlisted in, the speaker of the poem would not have shot the man that the war made his enemy.
Secondly, the speaker feels guilty for taking the life of his enemy because he realizes that he has much in common with his foe. In the fourth stanza, the speaker speculates that his enemy enlisted in the army casually because he was out of work and forced to sell his tools, just as he was. To illustrate, the speaker states, “He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps, off-hand like—just as I—was out of work…”. In addition, the speaker of the poem expected to hate his enemy, but ironically, he realizes that he and his enemy could have been friends. In fact, the speaker emphasizes the detail that if they had met in times of tranquility, he would have bought his enemy a drink, or even loaned him some money.
Similarly, the conflict in...
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