The Man He Killed

The Man He Killed

by Thomas Hardy

 “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 to 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 Man He Killed

  • Popularity of “The Man He Killed”: This poem was written by Thomas Hardy, a great English novelist and poet. ‘The Man He Killed’ is a narrative poem about the war and enmity between the two countries without reason. It was first published in 1902 in Harper’s Weekly. The poem speaks about the nature of war and the destruction it causes. It also attempts to illustrate the role of an enemy soldier in a war. The poem details what the soldiers feel while killing another soldier from the opposite side.
  • “The Man He KilledAs a Representative of Hatred: This poem is about the duties a war imposed upon soldiers. The poem starts with a confession. The speaker says that if that man met him in an inn, they would have had a great time together. They could have had a drink. However, both were soldiers. They stared at each other and shot at each other. Luckily, the speaker survived, but the man died. After killing the man, the speaker attempts to justify his action, saying that the person was his foe, soldier from the enemy line.
    Then, he contemplates the mocking nature of war, saying that he did not join the war to kill someone. Now, he has shot a man. He struggles to find words to justify his action. To him, war is appealing. He also feels curious because, as a soldier, you might kill a man but be friendly at the bar. However, war even makes people inhuman after killing others.
  • Major Themes in “The Man He Killed”: Effect of war is the major theme of this poem. The poem is about the soldier killing another man because they are fighting on opposite fronts in the war. Ironically, the speaker fails to justify his action. He simply states that the deceased was his foe. Later, he is haunted by the thought of killing the innocent man who came to war just to serve his nation. He simply curses the fight knowing that it makes people insane to the extent that they easily kill others.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “The Man He Killed”

Literary devices are essential elements of a literary text. They bring richness to the literature and help the readers understand meanings. Here is the analysis of some literary devices used in this poem.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /oo/ in “You shoot a fellow down.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, the sound of /h/ in “Had he and I but met”.
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /f/ in “my foe of course” and the sound of /n/ in “ranged as infantry.”
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; instead, it continues in the next line. For example,

“You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Had he and I but met”, “I shot at him as he at me” and “You shoot a fellow down.”
  2. Irony: Irony is a figure of speech in which words are used in such a way that their intended meaning is different from the actual meaning. The poet has used ironic expression in the first stanza of the poem to demonstrate the fact that he would not kill the man if they had met in a bar.
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is a use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal meanings. Here, “war” symbolizes senselessness.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “The Man He Killed”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “met/wet”, “inn/nipperkin” and “down/crown.”
  2. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme, and this pattern continues until the end.
  3. Quatrain: A quatrain is a four-lined stanza borrowed from Persian poetry. Here, each stanza is a quatrain.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are five stanzas in this poem, with each having four lines in it.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful for the occasion of a speech given about the absurdity of war.

“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.”