An Interpretation of Dudley Randall's To the Mercy Killers
In order to appreciate a poem properly, care must be taken to analyze and understand many different facets of the work. Poems are often very complex and require a great deal of thought in order to arrive at the intended meaning. At the very least, three particular items of information must be uncovered during the reading of poetry. An experienced reader of poetry will always determine the identity of the speaker, the occasion of the speech, and the central idea of the poem.
In Dudley Randall's "To the Mercy Killers," the speaker is human. The sex of the speaker cannot be definitely proven. The probability that the speaker is a man is very high due to the graphic use of the language and the grotesque description of slow death. For the most part, women do not speak in this way. The speaker is conscious of the fact that he will one day die. Recognizing the identity of the speaker as human is significant because the reader of the poem will be able to relate to the feelings and emotions of his or her fellow human being.
The second item of information that a reader must determine is the occasion of the poem. In "To the Mercy Killers," the occasion could easily be misconstrued as the desperate pleadings of a man on his deathbed. The very first word of the poem suggests otherwise. The speaker says, "If ever mercy move you murder me, I pray you, kindly killers, let me live" (Randall 875). The word If implies that the situation is not currently under consideration by those being addressed. The addressees are, of course, doctors of medicine. The speaker is expressing his own desire should he ever find himself in such a predicament. Regardless of the hopelessness of his recovery, the speaker emphatically...