ICSE Literature — Five ways to kill a man by Edwin Brock

Five ways to kill a man
by Edwin Brock

Introduction.... Edwin Brock is angry at the way humans turn on one another to kill. He feels helpless to witness the perpetuation of mayhem and homicide, as if there is no other recourse left for the society to correct a perceived wrong. He throws up his hands in despair and uses pun and satire to criticize the craze to kill. He mocks man’s ingenuity in devising elaborate ways to kill others – through ritualistic crucifixion, use of lethal gases and atom bombs.

Stanza 1 .. Here the author alludes to the story of murder of Jesus Christ by a gang of impetuous zealots, who inflicted pain, humiliation and death on the noblest of the noble human beings.
A band of fanatical Jews climbed a hill, virtually dragging and pushing the ‘condemned’ sinner – Jesus Christ! Earlier, St. Peter had thrice disclaimed any knowledge of or acquaintance with Christ. The cock crowed to remind Peter of Jesus’s prophecy that it would crow after three consecutive disavowals by Peter.
Jesus was nailed to the cross. To exhibit the ‘punishment’, the perpetrators made the cross stand erect. Later on, Christ was made to bare his body by removing his cloak. This meant Jesus forfeited his right for a proper burial. His partly covered corpse was to be left on top of the hill. The sadistic zealots ensured that maximum torture was inflicted on the hapless, crucified person. When Christ asked for water, they shoved a vinegar-dipped cloth into his mouth to cause excruciating pain. Jesus died as the people around him rejoiced with their feelings of ‘accomplishment’.
Edmund Brock wonders what the need was to adopt such a ‘cumbersome’ method to kill a single human being.
Stanza 2 … A long-drawn (1455-1485) fratricidal war was fought between the House of Lancaster and the House of York for no great reason except a desire to dominate and grab the English throne. It caused much blood-letting and mayhem. Use of hook axes and hammers as weapons added to the brutality of the fighting. Groans of the impelled victims filled the air. The game of ‘jousting’ gladdened the hearts of the victors, while his victims perished in excruciating pain.
During those days, fighting was for chivalry, honour, and pride, but little concrete game. Soldiers got killed for the vanity of the vainglorious knights.
The speaker is deeply pained to recall these events.
Stanza 3 .. In this portion, the speaker laments the way in which deadly poisonous gases manufactured by scientists were used to kill unsuspecting soldiers of the rival sides. Remorselessly, the Germans deployed canisters of lethal gases to unleash the gas that would get carried to the enemy side by air. At times, the poisoned air returned to ravage the Germans when the wind direction unexpectedly changed.
The poet bemoans the brutality of use of the WMDs.
Stanza 4 … In this portion, the poet turns to the dying days of WW2 when America dropped atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs developed in the most advanced labs by the best scientific brains of the world incinerated thousands in minutes. The dance of death continued long after the war drew to a close.
The author grieves over the death of so many civilian human beings in so cruel a way.
Stanza 5 … The author, almost resignedly thinks of simpler ways to kill a man. In a voice punctuated with despair, grief, and anger, he thinks living in the post WW2 world was akin to living in hell, embracing death. Here he has in mind the destitution, want, hunger, and hopelessness that bedeviled most parts of the world then. Life was extremely difficult, almost unbearably hard. Surviving the daily grinding of poverty was so very daunting. Many perished under the hardship.

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