In a time of increased tensions in our global society, imminent war is seen as an ever present reality. While this may be the case, it is prevalent for societies around the world to ask the daunting questions. Who is really the enemy? Who are we really hurting with war? These questions are for the most part neglected throughout the civilized world as ego and/or politics seems to have been put on a grander scale then human life. Logic would dictate that soldiers in the battlefield, not the leaders of the warring governments; face the full and immediate repercussions of military action. In Thomas Hardy's poem, "The Man He Killed," the "evils of war" is observed. This imaginative poem brings to attention two complete and utter strangers, who become full fledged enemies, due to the "evils of war."
War or the "glory of war" has been romanticized throughout history. From tales of chivalrous men dying in battle, to stories of stronger "righteous" nations overthrowing rogue governments, war has deemed justifiable and honorable. While their exits instances where war has not been justified fully, the affect on the men and women fighting the war is apparent. Hardy's protagonist in "The Man He Killed," is deeply affected by the fact that he killed a complete stranger, one of which he had no qualms or grievances towards. The protagonist states, "I shot him dead because he was my foe" (Hardy 707) and continues with the significant statement of "No other reason why" (Hardy 707). This is
important in understanding the underlining meaning of this literary work because it shows the affect of war on the soldiers in the battlefield.
Furthermore, in Hardy's poem, the men's decision to go to war (on opposite sides) was influenced by necessity. Hardy states," He thought he'd 'list, perhaps, off-hand like--just as I--was out of work--had sold his traps"( Hardy 707). The fact of the matter remains that both men went to war because of a necessity for money and work. Under any other circumstance they could have shared a few drinks and possibly a friendship, since both seemed to be previous trappers. The soldier, or the protagonist who shot his "enemy" is represented as being just as innocent as the soldier that got shot and killed. The protagonist states, "staring face to face, I shot at him as he at me, and killed him in his place"( Hardy 707). The shooting of the opposing soldier was justifiable because in occasions of war a "kill or be killed" mentality is in existance. Thomas Hardy is satirizing war because of the "pointlessness" it seems to represent. In his poem, it seemed pointless that two complete strangers must fight, when otherwise they could have been friends.
The attitude expressed in Thomas Hardy's "The Man He Killed" is that of satire, or dark humor as Hardy subtley expresses the "evil of war." There exits no real bitterness in the poem, but Hardy's writing of the poem indicates that he was indeed thoughtful towards war and...