The Man He Killed Thomas Hardy Hardy reduces a killing on the battlefield simply to two innocent young men who have arrived at their present circumstances by trying to do the right thing. The narrator does not condemn the two young men in the poem for attempting to kill each other Explanation: "The Man He Killed" Lines 1-4 The poem is being set up; the action in the poem has already taken place and the narrator of the poem is ruminating on this action. This is a technique that in contemporary literature would be considered a flashback. He imagines himself near "some old ancient inn," not a specific inn, but a cozy imaginary place. The diction of the poem (particularly "right many a nipperkin") suggests that the speaker is not a high brow sort, but a common bloke and this diction is important in establishing the persona of the narrator — an educated philospher he is not. "Nipperkin" is a half-vessel that is filled, in this situation, one suspects, with alcoholic drinks. Lines 5-6 The speaker locates both himself and the other fellow on a battlefield, a far cry from the ancient inn he imagines in retrospect. The men are not distant from each other, but close enough to look into each other's faces. Lines 7-8 These lines are as jarring and sudden as a gunshot. Two people on opposing lines shoot and one is left dead and the other still enjoys the ability to be able to reflect on the actions. This is the plot of the poem and its climax. Lines 9-10 In these lines there is a justification for the killing and it is a simple justification, without deliberation. Line 11 The repetition of the concept of "my foe" and the "of course" in this line signify a need for the speaker to convince himself of his justification for the killing. The "Just so:" which prefaces the repetition is similar to the modern phrase: "That's it; that's the ticket." Line 12 The "although" in this line serves as the pivot point for the following lines, in which the speaker deliberates his justification. Lines 13-16 In these lines the narrator begins deliberation speculating about the man he has just killed, and he begins to attribute his own motives to the dead man. Remember that in line 7, they shot at each other, and the narrator could just as easily have been the dead man. In fact, he imaginarily becomes the dead man. We as readers know this is a imaginary life he has placed the dead man within, but we learn something about the narrator's life — that he enlisted ('list) in war because he was out of work, and had sold his "traps" which we can read as "possessions," not because of a cause he believed in, but as something to do. He did it off-hand, without much thought about the possible the consequences, including the situation he has just encountered. Line 17 Now the speaker gives some thought to the condition of war. The word "quaint" is an unusual one to use here. One can think of it as a word which describes antique shops, not a war, but it can also be taken to mean cunning. Still, the explanation point suggests a tone that is not dire but almost ponderingly wonderous and the word "curious" while suggesting perplexion does not suggest despair that another speaker in the same situation might have voiced. Lines 18-20 Here the narrator defines the curious nature of war — you shoot a man, who under other circumstances you would act kindly toward, a man who could possibly become your friend. "Half-a-crown" is roughly about sixty cents, and it is probably not so much that the narrator imagines the fellow as a beggar as it is that he feels that his own character in a different context is one which would be willing to do a stranger who needed it, a kindness, and so by the end of the poem he has also arrived at a kind assessment of himself. He has done so with the presumption that his actions are universal, saying, "You shoot a fellow down / You'd treat" in lines 18-19, rather than using the first person as he did in "I shot at him..." in line 7. This movement from individual accountability to universal justification leads the speaker to a distance within himself and perhaps causes the use of the second person when the poet may still be speaking of himself.