Who was the soldier boy in Michael Mack’s poem “Small Pain in My Chest”? Why has the poet introduced him in the poem?
The soldier boy is a common soldier who fought in the Vietnam war, as suggested by the mention of ‘Asian dirt’ in the poem.
The poet has introduced him in the poem to show the inside of a soldier with all his feelings and aspirations, strengths and weaknesses. The point is to prove that a soldier is also a human being just like anyone else. He also wants to live. He has no enmity with anyone, but he fights because he has to, just out of a sense of duty in his service. He has a loving mother and a caring wife. He is a hero in their eyes. That is why the soldier boy wonders what his mother and wife would think if they find him sitting there with a ‘small pain’ in the chest.
And what is more, the poet wants to arouse the pity of war in the readers’ minds by initially developing a kind a love for the soldier boy for his frank confessions and good manners even with that fatal injury. He has no grudge against anyone and thinks himself to be lucky to have survived the initial blow while others are gone. All these show up a good human being inside the soldier. So, we the readers are very likely to feel sorry for the boy when he succumbs to the injury in the end. And this is the feeling that the poet wanted to arouse in us so that the readers speak up against such inhuman killing of innocent soldiers and against war at large. So, in short, through the depiction of the soldier boy in the poem, Michael Mack delivers his anti-war message.