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Killers Analysis

Author: poem of Carl Sandburg Type: poem Views: 85

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     I am singing to you
Soft as a man with a dead child speaks;
Hard as a man in handcuffs,
Held where he cannot move:

     Under the sun
Are sixteen million men,
Chosen for shining teeth,
Sharp eyes, hard legs,
And a running of young warm blood in their wrists.

     And a red juice runs on the green grass;
And a red juice soaks the dark soil.
And the sixteen million are killing. . . and killing
          and killing.

     I never forget them day or night:
They beat on my head for memory of them;
They pound on my heart and I cry back to them,
To their homes and women, dreams and games.

     I wake in the night and smell the trenches,
And hear the low stir of sleepers in lines--
Sixteen million sleepers and pickets in the dark:
Some of them long sleepers for always,

Some of them tumbling to sleep to-morrow for always,
Fixed in the drag of the world's heartbreak,
Eating and drinking, toiling. . . on a long job of
Sixteen million men.


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

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WW1 did not start because of slavery - it had nothing to do with it.
Aside from that, this poem is initially very difficult to place in an accurate historical setting as there is very little concrete detail on it. I have found one place that suggests the poem was written or first published in 1914 - placing it before the conclusion (and possibly even the start) of ww1 and therefore before anyone knew of the casualty figures! The 16 million men references, however, are too specific to ignore, making another reference to the poem having been written later and then published in 1917 x more likely, although this date is still before the end of the war and the final tally of casualties.
The references to \'trenches,\' \'the lines\' and \'world\'s heartbreak\' makes the poem sound very much ww1 as the world was not involved in the Spanish - American war and neither were there trenches or front lines in the same way as there were in WW1.
it is then further complicated by the references to \'i never forget them\' rather than \'i WILL never forget them\' suggesting the events being described happened in the past rather than the present - which throws further confusion on the 1917 or 1914 dates if we are to believe that the poem was written after the conflict it describes!
If you want to argue for it being about the Spanish - American war, you need to consider how the war lasted only 4 months and Sandburg, stationed in Puerto Rico, did not fight in trenches - although the fighting there was fierce. Equally, the number 16 million does not factor in this war where there were 669783 combatants and a lot less casualties.
The reference to a man in hand cuffs is not meant to be taken literally. It is a simile used to illustrate how passionately and emotionally the narrator is appealing to his reader/s. He describes himself as speaking \'hard AS...\' telling the reader that he speaks as powerfully or desperately as a man in handcuffs while not actually being that man himself.
In the same way he says he speaks \'soft AS a man with a dead child.\' an equally powerful simile showing the conflicting emotions within the narrator as he tries everything he can to make us understand how he is haunted by what he has seen in battle. (haunted LIKE a father with a dead child or an imprisoned man)

| Posted on 2011-01-19 | by a guest

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The poem is about the young men that served and died in WWI. They are stuck in the trenches, fighting a war that isn\'t their own, dying.

| Posted on 2010-11-05 | by a guest

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People who are in handcuffs are criminals who are locked inside jail bars where they cannot escape so easily. They are the people who may have done something wrong like breaking, disobeying laws of the government or did unspeakable acts such as killing or murder that caused their victims to be haunted by the past hallucinations, same to them as how did their conscience followed them to their graves. This poem shows more about criminology thoughts such as how murderers and psycho’s in fixing their way of living before and after they’ve been brought to jail as self-proclaimed criminals. Without any warning they pass through the silence of the midnight darkness, enter peaceful homes and easily end life without hesitation and mercy and just take away countless money and possessions. These criminals may had even victimized children and women, so how could they even dare to sleep with the memories of these people begging and asking for help. They drag the victims in a place where no one was acknowledged that they may have possibly left trenches of evildoing.

| Posted on 2010-11-01 | by a guest

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i interpret this poem as though the man\'s son has died. the hard as a man in handcuffs part shows that he is no longer kind. he wants revenge.

| Posted on 2010-10-18 | by a guest

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actually this is not about ww1 because this poem was written before ww1 happened. I have a book on all his poems and it shows the date.

| Posted on 2010-09-27 | by a guest

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It is about WW1 because 16 million men did die during that war...Sandburg also says that there is a man in handcuffs, and I interpret that as meaning a slave. I mean, that was what started the war in the first place, and he cannot move because he is held in place by the fear of getting hurt by his owner...

| Posted on 2010-02-11 | by a guest

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It actually isn't about the Spanish-American War... it is about World War I. I looked it up. There were 16 million men that died in WWI. There was nothing about 16 million men in the Spanish-American War (casualties, wounded, or served)

| Posted on 2010-01-06 | by a guest

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When I first read this poem I was confused as to what exactly he was talking about. Then I read his biography and it hit me, he's talking about the Spanish-American War he fought in. When Sandburg was twenty, he was ordered to fight in Puerto Rico. This poem is about some of the things he expirenced and saw while fighting for his country. The narrator of this poem speaks with wisdom and expirence. When he talks about the "sixteen million men choosen for shining teeth, sharp eyes, hard legs, and a running of young warm blood in their wrists...", he is refering to the men who served with him and were drafted for the war. When he says red juice you could probably guess that he is talking about blood. "...low stir of sleepers in lines--sisteen million sleepers and pickets in the dard: some of them long sleepers forever...", here he is talking about all of those who didn't make it back from the war.

| Posted on 2009-04-30 | by a guest

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