5 Ways to Kill Man - Analysis
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Five Ways to Kill a Man Edwin Brock There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man. You can make him carry a plank of wood to the top of a hill and nail him to it. To do this properly you require a crowd of people wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak to dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one man to hammer the nails home. Or you can take a length of steel, shaped and chased in a traditional way, and attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears. But for this you need white horses, English trees, men with bows and arrows, at least two flags, a prince, and a castle to hold your banquet in. Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind allows, blow gas at him. But then you need a mile of mud sliced through with ditches, not to mention black boots, bomb craters, more mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs and some round hats made of steel. In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly miles above your victim and dispose of him by pressing one small switch.
Here knights, foolishly slaughter one another to prove their mettle and valor, in the futile game of jousting, where nothing is ultimately accomplished, but one man always ended up dead, the other celebrating his death. They would face each other on royal white horses, attacking with their swords, only protected by their ridiculous metal cages, ready to kill or be killed. Similarly, crowns would go on conquering sprees, fighting huge wars to annex small kingdoms. Two countries, or two flags, would go to war, and huge numbers of people would die on both sides, before one prince emerged 'victorious'. This prince would then hold a banquet to celebrate the deaths of the numerous people who he had just killed. Then, Brock moves onto the world wars in the third and fourth stanza. Here, you didn't require nobility or numerous loyal knights to kill. All you had to do was wait for the wind to favor you, and then blow deadly gas at the enemies. The poet is referring to the poison gas that was popular during the world wars.
So he says that now you don't need to go through any trouble at all to kill a person living in twentieth century England. You just let him live there, and chances are he'll die due to any cause but a natural one. Though he doesn't directly insult science and technology, the poet subtly insults those who abuse the power of science. Through this poem we see how, as time advances, the advent of modern technology makes killing easier, faster, and more refined, gradually increasing the distance between the killer and the victim. In the biblical times, a whole crowd had to come in direct contact to kill one single person, but by the world wars, the killer didn't even have to see his victims, as he annihilated entire cities, comfortably sitting in his plane and controlling the fate of millions of innocents. Brock also notes in this emotionless poem, that this vast amount of killing has wiped out humanity completely, and left us desensitized to death, and completely devoid of emotions and sympathy. Brock demonstrates that over time, man changes, his reasons for killing changes, the ability technology presents, but the basic human tendency to kill remains the same.
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