Year 10

Understanding 'The Man He Killed'

I can explain how Hardy explores attitudes to war.

Year 10

Understanding 'The Man He Killed'

I can explain how Hardy explores attitudes to war.

Lesson details

Key learning points

  1. The poem was written during the Boer War.
  2. Hardy was very critical of this war and the British Empire’s military tactics.
  3. Hardy was suspicious that the British Empire wanted to exploit South Africa’s natural resources.
  4. In the poem, Hardy explores the similarities between two ‘enemy’ soldiers.
  5. He implies that perceiving war as simply a battle between good and evil dehumanises the people fighting,

Common misconception

This poem is written about soldiers fighting in WWI.

This poem was published during the Second Boer War (1899-1902) fought during the Victorian era. The First World War wouldn't begin for another 12 years.


  • Perception - the way something is understood or interpreted, influenced by personal beliefs or biases

  • Contradiction - a statement or situation that is inconsistent or incompatible with another, causing conflict

  • Dehumanising - depicting people as less than human, stripping them of individuality or complexity, often for propaganda

  • Propaganda - information or material spread to promote a particular cause or viewpoint, often biased or misleading

  • Futility - a feeling of pointlessness or ineffectiveness in achieving a desired outcome or goal

Consider comparing this poem to 'Exposure' (one of the others in the anthology) and exploring how Hardy and Owen convey a sense of the futility of war.
Teacher tip


Edexcel GCSE Poetry Anthology (Conflict cluster)

Content guidance

  • Contains conflict or violence.


Adult supervision suggested.


This content is © Oak National Academy Limited (2024), licensed on Open Government Licence version 3.0 except where otherwise stated. See Oak's terms & conditions (Collection 2).


6 Questions

During which time period did the Victorian era occur?
1616 - 1720
1723 - 1797
1801 - 1828
Correct answer: 1837 - 1901
1900 - 1975
Which of the following best describes a struggle within someone's mind?
interpersonal conflict
Correct answer: internal conflict
international conflict
imperial conflict
Which of the following is an example of a third-person pronoun?
Correct answer: he
What is a 'critique'?
Correct answer: an examination of something, often highlighting inequalities or injustices
a written analysis about two or more literary texts
two opposing arguments, debating with one another
a type of poem originated from 15th century France
What was the British Empire?
how people thought of Britain on the global political stage
an enormous exhibition centre, built to show off Britain's global exploits
Correct answer: a vast network of global colonies/territories controlled by Britain
a military ship, built to defend Britain in world wars
another way of saying 'British society'
What does 'melancholy' mean?
a feeling of deep anger, directly at someone who has wronged you
Correct answer: a feeling of deep sadness, often with a sense of longing or pensive reflection
a feeling of deep jealousy towards someone who has something you deserve
feeling of deep contentment we associate with family memories and our childhood
a feeling of upset caused by a confusing and disorientating environment

6 Questions

Which of these is a synonym for 'foe'?
Correct answer: enemy
What does 'futility' mean?
a feeling of hope when faced with difficult circumstances
a feeling of pride after having returned from war
Correct answer: a feeling of pointlessness or ineffectiveness in achieving a desired outcome
a feeling of sadness after someone has died
What is interpersonal conflict?
conflict in your own mind
Correct answer: conflict between you and someone else
conflict between different societal groups
conflict between global nations
Which of these words from the poem 'The Man He Killed' means 'a small container for liquids, holding about half a pint'?
Correct answer: "nipperkin"
Why does Hardy repeatedly draw similarities between the speaker and the enemy soldier in 'The Man He Killed'?
Correct answer: to humanise the enemy soldier by showing they are not so different
to imply that the speaker is secretly evil like the enemy soldier
to show that all men are predictable and have the same beliefs
to suggest that the speaker is secretly fighting for the enemy
Which military conflict inspired Hardy to write 'The Man He Killed'?
Correct answer: Second Boer War
World War I
Word War II
Falklands War