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This phrase is an example of how the smaller things are often the best and I think that this is why Bennet used ‘young boys and girls’ instead of just soldiers. Another reason is, I think, the anger felt at the association of two such different things – the innocence of children and war. Bennet may have written it to make people to reconsider their views on war and the glorified heroes by adding a different dimension to them. In the line ‘blood reds, cloud whites and ocean blues’ Bennet neglects to mention the land. He includes the sky and the sea but the earth isn’t present. This is linked to the second stanza which begins with nature creating pain for the humans – ‘biting, stinging clouds of dust’ – but ends with man taking control. I think that these lines may signify that the earth is being destroyed by humans.
As nature is another beautiful casualty of the war, like children, I believe that Bennet may be suggesting that the innocent are the first to suffer. Also, he uses words such as ‘biting’ and ‘stinging’ to describe the winds. There are very derogatory adjectives so it may imply that Bennet is saying that war changes people and forces them to become things they’re not. This is also similar to The Man He Killed as war is like a charade or a game. When they were ‘forced to pay the ultimate price’ it can relate to as the man who was killed was ‘in his place’ which suggests that he had no choice. ‘Strange people’ and ‘foreign land’ both evoke similar images of a faraway place that is unknown to many people. Young children generally like familiarity but by the use of ‘foreign’ it suggests that it is very upsetting for them.
It can also signify that they were far away from home and there was nobody they know. The flags that ‘caress’ them is their only comfort but by then it is too late. It is purely ironic that the flags which represent the ‘politicians that killed them’ are the only thing to offer them some peace. This can be compared to ‘quaint and curious war is’ because both poets are suggesting that war is odd and that it does not work in simple ways. ‘Strange people’ is another likeness to The Man He Killed – the first stanza is about the way in which they could have been friends if war didn’t get in the way and the same applies for the people in Coming Home.
I think that Bennet used that line to illustrate the bewilderness that can follow war as things change. ‘Floating’ and ‘seek the stars’ evokes an image of childlike fantasies of flying and going to the moon. These dreams could have been fulfilled if they hadn’t died so young and I believe that Bennet, by constantly reminding of their deaths in subtle ways, is trying to recreate the families’ pain when they can’t ever forget them. ‘Glistening’ seems like something is finally recognising their sacrifice and they are being welcomed back home. It is as though the flags and the tarmac are the only things that care about them and I think that Bennet is implying, through no people being mentioned, that we don’t overly mind their deaths. I think that Bennet was very bitter towards humanity when he wrote this as he does only refer to them with contempt: ‘the government who sent them to fight’.
The final stanza of Coming Home is, compared to the rest of the poem, very calm and peaceful. ‘Illuminates’ reminds me of someone suddenly understanding something or becoming enlightened. I think that it is a final reminder that we need to switch on about war as he considers it needless and waste of life. The calm nature of the ‘setting moon’ could be a symbol of hope for the future as, despite nature being corrupted earlier in the poem, it has come through and shown itself here. This suggests that Bennet still believes that we do have the power to stop destroying things. By ending the poem where he did, I think that Bennet wants us to remember the soldiers who died for us and to know that, if we want it, a better future is available for us.
The title and the tale of The Man He Killed suggest that two people were involved – the murderer (he killed) and the poet. However it becomes clear that the poet is the killer when he recounts the story in first person. I think that the poet is ashamed of the act as he wants to remain anonymous. This suggests that the murder haunts him and that the needs clarification about the necessity of it. It’s also shown by the ‘because -‘ as he needs to cast about for a reason. These two quotes hint that the poet is doubt about the true nature of war. The first and last stanza also suggests that, as he is thinking of what could have been, he, like Bennet, considers war to be a waste of life.
The rhyming of the poem adds a more playful feeling to it and I think that the poet may have placed it in as a shield around his actual feelings. He may have done this because he was a soldier and is aware that they aren’t particularly supposed to have those sorts of thoughts. This is shown by ‘ranged as infantry’ as he is impressing on us that he wasn’t a person when he did it; he was a killing machine. The phrase ‘off-hand like’ implies that the act of going to war isn’t thought over or deliberated about, he just went. I think that he could be suggesting that people at home believe war is so easy – you go, kill a few men, come back.
However by reading the rest of the poem about his feeling suggest that it can leave you in moral turmoil. However the continuation of the rhymes suggests, I believe, that the poet is trying to make us aware of the underlying threat of the people who think that it’s one big joke. In conclusion, I find that The Man He Killed is more touching than Coming Home because it’s in first person and therefore I could sympathise more with his feelings. This is a complete turn around from my first impressions on the poems as The Man He Killed seemed childish to begin with but when you look deeper the true message is there. Despite the differences in the poems, both poets agree on their final message to the readers: war isn’t glorious or heroic; it’s a complete waste of life.