Is the purpose of Edwin Brock’s poem simply to describe the various methods of killing a man?
A poet’s purpose can never be to describe something without a greater implication of that. Though Brock pretends to show us five different ways to kill a man through the poem, it is actually an anti-war poem in a broader sense. The poet wants to convey his disapproval of a war-ridden and poverty-stricken twentieth century world where people are dying bit by bit by leading a miserable life full of poverty, hunger, malnutrition, illiteracy, joblessness, political and religious intolerance, diseases and so on. He hints at these sufferings in his memorable lines:
… Simpler, direct, and much more neat
is to see that he is living somewhere in the middle
of the twentieth century, and leave him there.
Not only that, he also mentions the past occurrences of inhuman horrific killings in a satiric tone and calls them ‘cumbersome ways’ to kill a man. Edwin Brock has brilliantly conveyed his message that the use of scientific progress for the wrong cause will ultimately bring the civilization down. The theme of the poem has been the loss of humanity in mankind with every passing era.