In the poem "The Man with a Hoe," what does God intend him to be?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the poem "The Man With A Hoe," Edwin Markham presents to his readers the pitiful state of the oppressed workingman, more animal than dignified human. 'Bowed by the weight of centuries,' the exhausted farmer is 'dead to rapture and despair,/ A thing that grieves not and that never hopes.'

In the poem, this farmer is referred to as a 'Thing.' His labors and burdens have dehumanized him to the point that he has become a caricature of everything God had intended him to be.

Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave/ To have dominion over sea and land;/ To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;/ To feel the passion of Eternity?/ Is this the Dream He dreamed who shaped the suns/ And marked their ways upon the ancient deep?

From the poem, Markham is trying to tell us that God originally intended the farmer to be a powerful human being, one with supremacy and control over the sea and the land. This farmer was meant to live fully ('to feel the passion of Eternity') and to search out the mysteries of the stars and the universe. The poet laments that, instead, the farmer is living the wrong 'Dream;' he is betrayed by faceless 'masters, lords and rulers in all lands' who have 'Plundered, profaned, and disinherited' him from his true heritage.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the poem, Edwin Markham illustrates the pitiful condition of working-class farmers, who toil continuously and live oppressed, difficult lives. The miserable farmers are depicted as inhumane, unintelligent beings, who are overwhelmed by their heavy workloads. The narrator asks, "Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave To have dominion over sea and land; To trace the stars and search the heavens for power; To feel the passion of Eternity?". The pathetic description of the farmers is juxtaposed against God's lofty intentions for mankind. Essentially, God created mankind to imagine, interact, experience, and rule over the earth. God intended for humans to be independent, free creatures, who positively interact with their natural environment and attempt to understand the universe. Instead, the majority of mankind is forced to live difficult lives under oppressive leaders. The plight of the farmers is sad and illustrates how God's intentions have not been satisfied. At the end of the poem, the narrator offers a warning to those abusive, greedy rulers who force their citizens into servitude. Eventually, the oppressed farmers will one day unite and rebel against their masters in order to live fulfilling lives as God originally intended.