09 JunFriend or Foe: How does Thomas Hardy play those words in a poem?

Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have set us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he,
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

Thomas Hardy (victorianweb.org)

Thomas Hardy (victorianweb.org)

The Man He killed is one of famous poems composed by Thomas Hardy. He is a poet who was born in England and spent his life until the age of 87. Generally, this literary work explores the situation of war, especially how the war is portrayed and how the soldier psychology perceives the war. This essay is obtained to explain the content and the language used also tries to analyze the poem thoroughly and critically through binary opposition, a Structuralism theory from Ferdinand De Saussure.

In the beginning, Thomas Hardy set the time and place of poem as the introduction of the whole story in the poem. The first stanza is about the two men who have ever met each other in the old ancient building and it was like celebrating or just hanging out accompanied by drink. We can imagine how we enjoy the bar with some bottles of beer. Their relation is illustrated as the colleague and close friend. Though the first line is quite confusing grammatically, but we still get the essence of meaning of whole first stanza. In addition, the stanza is more beautiful by the ABAB rhyme.

In the second stanza, the story is clearer. The voice in the poem is described as a Man who is an infantry (soldiers who are trained to fight on foot or a unit of such soldiers of infantry making up a regiment). Being infantryman has a duty to fight on war, shoot enemy as many as possible. The word “staring face to face I shot at him as he, and killed him in his place” has the vivid meaning that he kills anyone who considers as enemy just by looking at them without seeing the enemy’s physical appearance. Connecting with the first stanza, the second stanza with CDCD rhyme tells us that maybe someone what he killed is a stranger, or even his former friend which has ever spent one night together in drinking. It shows that your enemy has various histories with the man.

We find the reason why the main character shot the man dead. It is clear that because the man is his foe. Now, let us think that if we were soldier, we got doctrinal thought that we are obliged to kill for the sake of nation Also without thinking far about humanity, he just uses his gun to make them died and as if his mission is accomplished. The interesting part is the word although in the last sentence of this stanza. It is like main actually realizes that the man is his foe at the same time the man is his friend.

In the forth stanza, we can see that the infantryman is faced by the only one option he has to take, in which he was forced to shoot enemies. This can be inferred from EFEF rhyme that nationality is not bounded by fraternity.

The last stanza is the last sentences to convey the poem meaning. Finally the character said that quaint and curious war is! You shoot a fellow down. For him, the war is dilemma, between friend and foe. War is also the things that make him out of humanity value. Actually the don’t have intention to join such war; however they are forced to do it.

Overall, the poem language is simple but tangible and has strong meaning so that the reader can easily involve in the situation described by the author. The poem also plays some metaphors like quaint and nipper kin to make it more describable. All of the stanzas are managed to have good composition of ABAB rhyme to make it as a beautiful package of poem.

The paragraphs above mainly talk above the poem composition and the plot of the poem. Now, I would like to connect the message in the poem by using structuralism theory. We can see that there are some binary opposition in the poem such as friend-foe and I-he.

The connection between friend and foe is illustrated reversely. Friend is described as the one who accompany us in happiness and spending the time together such as having a night in a bar with some bottle of beer, having no intention to kill or even hurt, and having sense of belonging. However, the illustration of foe is the one who doesn’t obey the friendship, acknowledge us as “others” even shoot someone down with no feeling of sympathy.

The use of I and he is described as the author voice as the soldier or infantryman and also other infantryman who oppositely fight for. It is about two blocks of area where I is in the A area and he is in B area, they killed each other.

Finally, the poem actually views the war from the humanity perspective rather than from the political perspective. It tries to articulate the voice of soldier that wants to say something. This poem tells that war is the one they want to avoid because war only forces them to be a sinful person, war is forced them to kill. They actually regret toward their action. Also the war is about killing brotherhood they have established only for political interest.

This is a great poem by Thomas Hardy that inspires us to be better persons with full of sensibility of life. This poem also promotes ‘say no to war” because it just worsen the condition and victimize many people.

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One Response so far.

  1. Denuz Heruwanda says:

    nice post

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