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Summary and Analysis of Five Ways to Kill a Man by Edwin Brock

Five Ways to Kill a Man by Edwin Brock mocks at the dehumanization of man. The poe
m describes the various ways that man has used, beginning from the ancient times
to the 20th century, to kill other human beings. The methods he has used are cr
ucifixion, lancing, gassing, bombing etc.Alludes to events in history in chronol
ogical order
Brock shows no emotionthroughout so that he can create a dull feel toward humani
ty. The poem suggests thattoday's society is cares nothing for the value of life
itself; thus Brock shows no emotionto promote the idea. The final stanza once a
gain refers to the lack of care for life statingthat placing someone 'somewhere
in the middle of the twentieth century' is a 'Simpler,direct and much more neat'
way to kill a man. Brock shows just how inhumane society isand has been since t
he death of Christ while also displaying how heartless and horrifyingtoday's wor
ld has become.
this poem has a sarcastic tone to it. The poet shows no emotions or opinions in
this poem,and that sort of means that the poet think when people kill each other
, they cannot gainanything from it. so this poem shows the continuity and the me
aningless of wars andkilling. Also, it shows the desire in human to kill progres
ses as the first method only killsone Man, the second a bit more, and the last t
wo World Wars had millions of casualties.The poet is pointing out that with the
technical advance comes more weapons, and withmore weapons comes easier ways of
killing people, and at last human are going to killthemselves.
I truely think that is the mostappropriete way to set this poem out
the ending was the best part in my point of view. it is about one'sspirit dying
and that, to me is worth than any physical death.It refers to our own personal i
nhumanity rather than our socialinhumanity - of all the weapons and technologica
l advances that areutilised as instruments of destruction, man itself remains ma
nkinds'greatest threat.Recipe method
The world today is a very harshand difficult place to live in. you just have to
turn on the radio or the television andyou ll hear another tragic tale of death, w
ar and poverty.The economic climate is in a ridiculous state. We ve had to borrow
billions of euros to try and dig ourselves out of the trouble we ve got ourselves
in, and that is aridiculous state to be in.Every day we hear tales of new wars,
or old wars getting worse. North Koreaand South Korea are fighting relentlessly
in their most vicious dispute in a very longtime.People are being killed by man
and disease (or a combination of both) all thetime, and unless the person is fam
ous, nobody seems to care. It doesn t affect themso it s somebody else s problem
Author's style-----Brock's two Archive poems amply demonstrate the virtues of hi
s "intensely felt, supple, direct andmemorable work" (Anthony Thwaite)'Five Ways
to Kill a Man' is chilling in its deliberatelyemotionless tone as it uses the l
anguage of a practical manual to explore humanity's cruelty.Progress is reduced
to the way in which mankind has "improved" its methods of killing.The poem has a
n air of authority which Brock's reading emphasises.
Themes:
Modern life (trials)
Cruelty of humanity throughout history
Thought-provoking
Unusual/original/fresh perspective
Humour

wry/black/dark humour

A poem which you can relate to


War
Conflict
You just let him live there, and chances are he'll die due to any cause but a na
tural one. Though he doesn't directly insult science and technology, the poet su
btly 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 ki
ll 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 a
nd controlling the fate of millions of innocents. Brock also notes in this emoti
onless poem, that this vast amount of killing has wiped out humanity completely,
and left us desensitized to death, and completely devoid of emotions and sympat
hy. Brock demonstrates that over time, man changes, his reasons for killing chan
ges, the ability technology presents, but the basic human tendency to kill remai
ns the same.
Summary:
Stanza 1: The very first stanza of the poem, Five Ways to Kill a Man begins with t
he crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The method used to torture him and kill him are
termed as cumbersome by the poet. A whole crowd walks up a hill as they force him
to carry the cross upon his back. Earlier, St. Peter had denied thrice to have k
nown him when he was asked whether he was in the company of Jesus. The cock crow
ed to remind Peter that Jesus had predicted that Peter would deny Christ thrice
before the cock would crow. Jesus was nailed to the cross and the cross was then
pulled erect. Later on, Christ was asked to remove his cloak, so that he would
not be able to have a proper burial and his corpse would be left on top of the h
ill semi-clad. Christ was tortured in many ways. When Christ asked for water, th
ey gave him sponge soaked in vinegar tied to a rod which they put into his mouth
. Eventually, Jesus died and they waited there and watched him die.
Stanza 2: The second stanza talks about the medieval age when wars were fought f
or the sake of crown and honour. This is a reference to the Wars of Roses (14551485), a series of dynastic wars fought between the Houses of Lancaster and York
, for the throne of England. There, the knights foolishly slaughtered each other
with hook axes and hammers which could pierce the armour with ease. They rode a
nd faced the opponents on white horses, attacking them with swords, ready to kil
l or to be killed. The poet calls this game of jousting as futile because nothin
g was accomplished, one man always ended up losing his life and the other celebr
ated his death. Similarly, crowns used to go on conquering sprees, fighting huge
wars to annex small kingdoms. Tow countries would go to war and thousands of pe
ople would die on both sides, before one prince would emerge as victorious. Then t
he prince would throw a banquet, celebrating his victory and the deaths of the n
umerous people he killed.Here knights, foolishly slaughter one another to prove
their mettle and valor, in the futile game of jousting, where nothing is ultimat
ely accomplished, but one man always ended up dead, the other celebrating his de
ath. They would face each other on royal white horses, attacking with their swor
ds, 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 sma
ll kingdoms. Two countries, or two flags, would go to war, and huge numbers of p
eople would die on both sides, before one prince emerged 'victorious'. This prin
ce would then hold a banquet to celebrate the deaths of the numerous people who
he had just killed.

Stanza 3: The third stanza of Five Ways to Kill a Man is about the First World War
. The poet says that this period did not require Princes or loyal knights to kil
l. They only needed the favourable wind direction to blow the deadly gas towards
their opponents. The poet here refers to the poisonous gas warfare that was pop
ular during the World War. In 1915, the British used gas cylinders on the German
s. However, the wind direction changed and the gas came back to the British sold
iers and poisoned them. Edwin Brock also describes the horrors of bombs, mud-bla
ckened boots, plague of mice and the miserable living conditions in the ditches.
The poet talks about all those patriotic songs that were sung to boost the mora
le of the soldiers and make them feel proud for killing their enemies.
Stanza 4: The advent of the airplane and the atomic bomb is what the fourth stan
za is about. Here in this very stanza, he is referring to the bombings of Hirosh
ima and Nagasaki in Japan by the USA during the Second World War. He says that t
his required an ocean to separate you referring to the cultural gap between Americ
a and Japan; two systems of government referring to the difference in the administ
rative systems of the two countries; a nation s scientists and several factories to pr
oduce lethal weapons of mass destruction like an atomic bomb. This horrible act
of mass killing was executed by a psychopath possibly referring to the then Presid
ent of the USA, Harry S. Truman who authorized the bombing on Japan. Land that no
one needs for several years is a reference to regions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
which were completely destroyed by the effects of radiation.
Stanza 5: The final stanza talks about the far simple and more direct methods to
kill a man. The poet says that methods described in the first four stanzas were
too cumbersome. The simpler and direct method to kill someone is by leaving the
victim somewhere in the middle of the 20th century. Here, Edwin Brock is referr
ing to the miserable and tragic conditions which were prevalent after the Second
World War, which included poverty, hunger, malnutrition, diseases, religious in
tolerance and joblessness. In such terrible conditions, man was already dying of
pain every day in order to survive.
Theme:
Five Ways to Kill a Man focuses on the loss of humanity in man with every passing
era. The poem describes the methods used by man to kill other men for his own se
lfish motives. The first stanza talks about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the
second is about the medieval age, the third and fourth stanzas talk about the F
irst and Second World War, respectively. The poet wants to convey a message thro
ugh this poem. He wants to say that man has become devoid of emotions and sympat
hy. Man has developed newer scientific methods which has made killing easier and
faster. People kill one another, physically or mentally to survive in the world
today. Children are dying of hunger, malnutrition and diseases. People have to
endure pain in order to survive and therefore, they are dying a slow death. Thus
, the poem wants to highlight the fact that though man acquired new methods to d
iscover, create but the basic human tendency to kill remain unchanged.
Form and Language:
The poem is composed in free verse with no end rhyming scheme. The descriptions
of the ways of killing a man are chronologically arranged. Each stanza depicts o
ne possible way to kill a man. Every stanza except the last stanza consists of r
un-on lines. Run-on lines suggest that the rhythm does not conform to any struct
ure and is free flowing.
The poem is written in a simple language to describe the different ways to kill
a man. The words are used cold and blunt. The words used to describe the crucifi
xion of Christ depict the lack of humanity and emotionless nature of man.
Allusion:
There are several allusions in the poem, Five Ways to Kill a Man.
The first stanza of the poem alludes to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This is
done by describing the method by which Jesus was crucified. He was forced to ca

rry a plank of wood up to Golgotha hill. On the way, a big hostile crowd accompa
nied him and humiliated him. He was tortured and nailed to the cross where he ev
entually died.
The second stanza refers to the Wars of Roses to illustrate how wars were fought
for the sake of crown and honour during the medieval age.
The third stanza refers to gas warfare in the First World War.
The fourth stanza refers to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Na
gasaki in Japan in August 1945, by the USA.
Poetical Devices:
Alliteration: The examples of the alliteration are as follows,*cock that crows
*hammer the nails home
*mile of mud
*black boots
*small switch
*much more
Assonance: Example of assonance is:
*bows and arrows
Personification: ..if the wind allows, blow gas at him
nification in the poem.

is an example of fine perso

Five Ways to Kill a Man by Edwin Brock mocks at the dehumanization of man. The poe
m is written in a simple language to describe the different ways to kill a man.
The words are used cold and blunt.
The main theme of the poem is the loss of humanity in mankind with every passing
era. Man has an natural instinct to fight, kill and to destroy. The poem descri
bes the various ways man has devised since ancient times to take lives of his fe
llow human beings for his own selfish motives.
Each stanza of the poem deals with one killing method of man that is inflicted o
n the other. The very first stanza of the poem, Five Ways to Kill a Man begins wit
h the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. A whole crowd walks up a hill as they force h
im to carry the cross upon his back. Jesus was nailed to the cross and the cross
was then pulled erect. Later on, Christ was asked to remove his cloak, so that
he would not be able to have a proper burial and his corpse would be left on top
of the hill semi-clad. Christ was tortured in many ways. When Christ asked for
water, they gave him sponge soaked in vinegar tied to a rod which they put into
his mouth. Eventually, Jesus died and they waited there and watched him die.
The first stanza has dark undertones of sarcasm in it. The method used to tortur
e him and kill him are termed as cumbersome by the poet. The sheer lack of humanit
y on the part of the crowd which watches a man brutally crucified is portrayed i
n the first stanza.
The second stanza moves to the medieval age. There, the knights foolishly slaugh
tered each other with hook axes and hammers which could pierce the armour with e
ase. They rode and faced the opponents on white horses, attacking them with swor
ds, ready to kill or to be killed.Similarly, crowns used to go on conquering spr
ees, fighting huge wars to annex small kingdoms. Two countries would go to war a
nd thousands o f people would die on both sides, before one prince would emerge
as victorious. Then the prince would throw a banquet, celebrating his victory and
the deaths of the numerous people he killed.
The poet then moves on to the topic of World Wars in which it was lot easier to
kill due to the advent of science. The use of atomic bombs which can kill millio
ns and millions of people just with the touch of a button. . In 1915, the Britis

h used gas cylinders on the Germans. The poet then refers to the bombings of Hir
oshima and Nagasaki in Japan by the USA during the Second World War. This horrib
le act of mass killing was executed by a psychopath possibly referring to the then
President of the USA, Harry S. Truman who authorized the bombing on Japan. Land
that no one needs for several years is a reference to regions of Hiroshima and Na
gasaki, which were completely destroyed by the effects of radiation. In the fina
l stanza, the poet argues that there is no need to adopt cumbersome ways of kill
ing men in the 20th century. This era is already infested with diseases, destitu
tion, accidents, wars and hatred which is enough to kill a person.
Through Five Ways to Kill a Man , Edwin Brock conveys the message of how man dehuma
nizes himself as he progresses. Man has made life comfortable by inventing more
and more scientific technology, at the same time, he is also acquiring new metho
ds to make killing more easier. Every single day children die of diseases, malnu
trition, people become victims of joblessness, poverty, hunger and religious con
flicts. Thus, the poem highlights the fact that man changes with time and his re
asons for his killing too.

Brock deals with the progression of death across history and concludes that deat
h carries no emotions for the victim; death sees only death. The progression of
death throughout the poem follows the significant periods of death over the past
two thousand years or so. In the first stanza, death is represented through cru
cifiction - not necessarily of Jesus, but his death is implied - the second stan
za deals with death through the ages, more specifically the Middle Ages where by
death was simplistic and is represented thusly. The third stanza deals with WWI
- not WWII - this can be seen through the "round hats made of steel,". The four
th stanza looks at the Cold War and further emphasises the lack of emotions of d
eath through the depersonalisation of "victims" followed by, again, simplicity s
urrounding death with "pressing one small switch." The fifth and final stanza co
mments on the last way to kill a man - letting him live in the 20th century. The
poem implies that the death and destruction is condensing throughout history, m
aking it an everyday thing that will continue on its path.
One is said to be kept amdist the chaos of 20th century and nothing rescue him f
rom the impending doom.
The 3rd stanza: chorine gas used in the 2nd battle of Ypres 1915 - it took a wee
k to dig the gas tanks and fuse mechanisms in " no mans land" and even longer ti
me to wait for the "wind to allow blowing gas at him". In very short time they a
pplied gas onto shells delivered by artilery so the wind was no longer a decisiv
e factor. "Dispensing with nobility" - there was a huge debate on German side on
the morality to use gas, irony is the fact that the "inventor" was awarded the
Nobel price tor chemistry later - how noble :-( Ypres was also know to be the "m
uddest" terrain in the western front.
"round hats made of steel" - the modern helmet was first used in ww1
The first four stanzas are pretty straightforward.
The first is obviously about Jesus in the first century.
The second is the European Middles ages ranging from the fifth to fifteenth cent
uries.
The third is World War I in the early 1900s.
The fourth is World War II in the mid 1900s.
The poem gets progressively more violent and killing more people and as time goe
s on, the people of each century become less and less religious.
The last stanza is very confusing. But a \"simpler, direct, and much more neat\"
way to kill a man is to leave him in a century full of no hope or lacks religio
us belief. I believe the meaning of this poem is that the world\'s history has k

illed the twentieth century man.


nobody realises but there is only 4 real ways to kill a man in this poem. the la
st one is a mockery of how dangerously people live in the twentieth century.

last stanza is a perfect stroke given by the poet which makes us realize that ho
w we are filling this world with dishonesty and cruelty.the people living in 20t
h century were materialistic,harsh on other's lives how we are ruining the world
.
Through the entire "timeline" of the poem, the author talks about these "cumbers
ome" ways of killing, while paradoxically each stanza shows advancements in more
sophisticated ways to kill.
However, the pivotal point in the poem is found with the final stanza. It reiter
ates that all the prior methods listed are cumbersome. This is a surprise, not f
or the first several stanzas, but it is for the stanza on World War II: when adv
anced technology had created an atomic bomb that brought about Japan's surrender
.
The final irony is the author's message that advancements in technology provide
no better way for killing: the best way to kill, he pro ports, is to leave manki
nd to its own devices. By doing so, men will kill themselves in the way they liv
e during the most advanced age known to man, the twentieth century. In other wor
ds, when mankind should have the most answers to avoid war, without any help the
human race will "self-destruct."

This poem by Edwin Brock is often considered a poem against war, whereas in fact
it is a poem aboutthe loss of humanity. It is written much like an instruction
guide or recipe book, telling the readerthe manner in which a man can be efficie
ntly killed. Each stanza deals with one method of killing;each one distancing th
e killer further from his victim, till in the last stanza there is neither kille
r norvictim, but just a living death. [BR] In the first stanza the crucifixion o
f Jesus is refered to. Here thereader is told that all that is required is a pla
nk of wood and some nails and hammer to drive themhome. This deliberately dead p
an and emotionless tone underlines the lack of humanity that is fastbecoming the
hall mark of current war fare with its references to "collateral damage", aconv
eniently clinical term for civilan casualties. [BR] In the second stanza the poe
t uses the War of Roses as a way to illustrate how wars were fought for the sake
of crown and honour, whereas therewas nothing noble in the brutal hand to hand
warfare using common agricultural tools like bill hooksaxes and hammers that pie
rced armour with ease. The armour is called "a metal cage", the weapons"shaped a
nd chased in a traditonal way".All you need is a prince, two flags (representing
the Housesof York and Lancaster) and the English countryside marred with the ki
llings of battle. You require acastle to hold your banquet in to celebrate your
victory while the brutal and ignoble nature of thiswar is hidden in the image of
"white horses" and "English trees". In the next stanza we are told thatwe may d
ispense with nobility altogether as the poet brings our attention to the cruel p
ractise of gaswarfare in the First World War. "...you may if the wind allows, bl
ow gas at him..." sounds as harmlessas a child blowing bubbles or at the most so
meone blowing cigarette smoke in your face. In 1915when the British used gas cyl
inders to send Chlorine gas towards the German front lines the winddirection cha
nged and the gas came back to poison the British soldiers. In this stanza the po

et bringsour attention to the other horrors of trench warfare, as he says to kil


l a man in this way you alsoneed bomb craters, a mile of mud, a plague of rats.
This sounds exaclty like a list of ingredients for arecipe. [BR][BR]As we dehuma
nize ourselves further in the fourth stanza we are told we may flymiles about ou
r victim and "dispose" of him by pressing a small switch. But now we require an
oceanto separate us, two different ideologies and scientists and a psycopath. Th
is is an obvious referenceto the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War
II. We are left with "land that no oneneeds for several years", as if that was
the end of this exercise.[BR][BR]However the argument issuccintly clinched in th
e last stanza of the poem in just four lines. These methods after all are toocum
bersome and it is far simpler and more direct to see that our victim is living s
omewhere in themiddle of the twentieth century and leave him there.[BR][BR]This
the most telling part of this poem.We find here the hopelessness of life as we k
now it today. We must kill our humanity to survive inthe world of today, with da
ily news reports of children dying of disease and malnutrition, peoplebecoming v
ictims of religious intolerance, suicide attacks, honur killings, suicides due t
o joblessnessin developing countries and the sheer scale of human idiocy in dest
roying its own race. We have hadto desensitize ourselves to this daily onslaught
of pain in order to survive and in so doing we are infact slowly dying.It is to
o painful to shed tears over every mining victim, every bomblast victim, everywo
man stigmatised. So we kill ourselves, we kill our hopes and our very desire to
live. We become asmechanical as the tone of this poem in our efforts to deal wit
h the horrors of daily life, with thataccident we see during rush hour, with the
child victim of some pedophile we see on the news. Welearn to numb our pain in
a world full of pin-pricks. In doing so we may as well be dead. [BR][BR]Inshort
this poem, is brutally simple, its tone clinical to the point of instructional p
rose, and yet it doesso well what Wordsworth said a poem must, appear to the rea
der as a remembrance of his ownhighest thoughts. The average man today is helple
ss in the face of what a few misguided leaders aredoing to destroy humanity, and
this poem voices for us this frustration and this bitter truth. Million

of protestors all around the world could not dissuade America and Brittain from
attacking Iraq. This poem stands witness to how our hopes and the voice of human
ity can be easily silenced. In doing so it urges us to speak up against our spir
itual death and resurrect our dying humanity.

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