Human at War in The Man He Killed

Categories: HumanHuman NatureWar

Killing another human is something that most people would find very hard to do. Does a person’s feelings towards violent actions change in the course of a war? In the poem, “The Man He Killed,” by Thomas Hardy, he illustrates a narrative of a man who questions his own actions of doing harm to another individual. Throughout the poem, Hardy uses the techniques of tone and word choice to get his ideas across the poem. Though the poem is a bit short, is does have a very strong atmosphere that give off very different tones.

At the beginning it is very heartwarming when the narrator suggest that he and the person in front of him could have had a drink together if the circumstances called for it, “We should have set us down to wet,” the tone quickly turns bad in the middle of the poem as seen in this quote, “But ranged as infantry.. I shot at him as he at me,” In an instant, the tone goes from humble to a dark feeling as the narrator destroys him enemy.

Just as easy as before, the atmosphere once again shifts, “I shot him dead because– Because he was my foe,” Here the narrator tries to justify his actions and blames if on the war. He implies that the war gave him enough cause to get the job done. The tone continues throughout the poem as a sort of regretful tone. “Yes; quaint and curious war is! You shoot a fellow down,” Here, the narrator is thinking about how war can change a person and the actions that occur because it.

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Along with tone, the narrator uses word choice to justify and explain his actions. In the quote used before, “Yes; quaint and curious war is,” the narrator is also saying that these types of events are unavoidable in the line of battle. In the first stanza of the poem, the narrator suggests that if he met the man in a bar while not in a war then they would be surely having a drink together. Using the word, “but” is a clue that suggests an alternate situation. Along with the words used like, “had,” and, “should,” these all give off another situation that is opposite of the war. Pity and regret drive the narrator to use these words and give readers an insight on his true feelings and motives regardless of what he has done because of the war.

Survival of the fittest, does this concept only apply when war is a factor? Thomas Hardy’s poem, “The Man He Killed,” he uses tone and word choice to
give readers an idea of what soldiers are feeling in the heat of battle. Using tone gives us insight on their justifications of their actions while word choice suggest that they believe that peace and good times would be in place of violence if not for the war. How far would one go for their country and push away their own thoughts and morals?

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Human at War in The Man He Killed. (2016, Apr 16). Retrieved from

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