What is the theme of the poem "Five Ways To Kill A Man" by Edwin Brock?

The poem Five Ways To Kill A Man by Edwin Brock is about the dehumanization of mankind.

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There are five stanzas to this poem; the main themes of the poem appear to center on the inhumanity of man through succeeding generations and the new threats to life in modern civilization.

Stanza One describes the crucifixion of Christ. The poet describes the sandal-wearing Jewish crowd. The crowing "cock"...

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There are five stanzas to this poem; the main themes of the poem appear to center on the inhumanity of man through succeeding generations and the new threats to life in modern civilization.

Stanza One describes the crucifixion of Christ. The poet describes the sandal-wearing Jewish crowd. The crowing "cock" refers to Peter betraying Christ three times before the rooster crows. Also, Roman soldiers divide the garments of Jesus between themselves (into four shares). However, on the day of his Crucifixion, Jesus is also wearing a seamless tunic/cloak; the soldiers cast lots for this valuable garment because they do not want to divide it. Refer to John 19:23.

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.

Stanza Two refers to the medieval era when men still fought with "bows and arrows." The "length of steel" refers to a sword which can pierce through chain-mail hauberks. However, in the later medieval period, armor was often entirely made of steel plates and was much harder to penetrate.

Stanzas Three and Four describe World Wars One and Two. The reference to "gas" signifies chemical warfare, and the "ditches" may be an allusion to trench warfare. Rat infestation in trenches was a greatly feared phenomenon in World War One. The millions of rats which invaded trenches often feasted on rotting corpses and invariably brought disease to already beleaguered troops.

Stanza Four focuses on the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

All you then require is an ocean to separate you, two systems of government, a nation's scientists, several factories, a psychopath and land that no-one needs for several years.

The scientists refer to the men who invented and worked on the atomic bomb. As for the psychopath, some experts maintain that it is a reference to President Truman, although others maintain that it is a reference to Hideki Tojo, the imperialistic dictator of Japan, who along with his allies, Germany and Italy, intended to rule the world. The wonderful thing about poetry is that there are often different interpretations based on unique viewpoints.

Stanza Five is the last stanza. After centuries of killing each other, the poet maintains cheekily that he has just been describing "cumbersome ways to kill a man." He argues that a more direct way to kill would be to put someone in the "middle of the twentieth century" and to leave him to the machinations of modern civilization. Thus, the theme of the poem reinforces that the inhumanity of man and the myriad threats to life continue into modernity; danger is not circumscribed by circumstance or time.

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The wording of the question seems to assume that there is a single theme to this poem.  I don't believe that is the case.  I believe a reader could see several themes emerge from this poem.  I believe there are themes about war, violence, brutality, dehumanization, technology, time, and/or power.  

Of the above themes, I think the dehumanization of mankind theme is the strongest.  I like this theme choice because I feel that it encompasses some of the other themes with it.  

Each of the poem's first four stanzas focuses on a particularly violent event and/or time period.  The first stanza is about the crucifixion of Christ.  Stanza two is about medieval knights fighting and having their armor pierced.  Stanza three is about World War One's trench warfare, and stanza four is about World War Two's atomic bombs.  

The above scenarios are incredibly violent and even barbaric examples of the violence that humans have wreaked upon each other for hundreds of years; however, the author's tone is cold and blunt.  Sympathy, compassion, and aversion to violence are not conveyed by the poem.  The poem doesn't focus too much on human suffering.  The crowd of people watching Christ's death are not described as showing any emotion.  There is no compassion for the man being brutally executed.  The second stanza continues that cold distance.  It ends with a royal banquet that celebrates the destruction and death heaped upon a battlefield.  

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.

Stanzas three and four almost completely remove humans from the violence.  Both of them are about how easy killing other men has gotten because of improved technology.  Stanza three says that all you have to do to kill is "blow gas at him."  Stanza four makes killing even easier by saying that only a small button needs to be pushed. 

In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly
miles above your victim and dispose of him by
pressing one small switch.

By the time the final stanza finishes, it's clear that mankind has continually found more and more efficient ways of killing other people.  Our technology hasn't made us kinder and better humans.  It has allowed us to kill from greater and greater distances, which has had the effect of us not seeing our enemy as a fellow human being.  They are dehumanized targets to be eliminated in an efficient manner.  The sarcasm present throughout the poem clearly indicates that the author thinks the increasing dehumanization of mankind is a bad thing. 

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"Five Ways to Kill a Man" by Edwin Brock describes, in almost cold clinical language, the history of humanity's inhumanity by presenting us with five different episodes in human history. It expresses an apocalyptic theme in which the advancement of human technology results in increasingly more brutal and efficient ways of killing.

The first stanza portrays the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Its position is thematically significant, as Jesus is held to be a figure who brought "peace on earth" and in theory the martyrdom of the founder of Christianity should have made Christians more humane.

Instead, in the second stanza, we encounter the European Christian Middle Ages, in which the traditions of jousting and chivalry masked equally brutal and pointless killing.

The third stanza recounts the horrors of mustard gas used in World War I and the fourth stanza describes the nuclear bombs dropped on Japan by the United States. 

The final stanza is the climax to the poem, suggesting that humanity's destructive impulses will lead us to self-destruct as our technology fails to give us peace and provides us instead with increasingly lethal ways to destroy ourselves. Thus the theme of the poem is that our "advances" have led us not to be better people but more lethal killers. 

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