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English Literature

Simon Armitage: The Manhunt

Attitudes, themes and ideas

The Manhunt is about the patience and care of love. The wife in the poem is methodical and thorough in her search, exploring her husband's injured body with love and care.

The poem also explores the cost of war on those serving in the armed forces. The man has a "grazed heart", perhaps literally from an injury caused by "the metal beneath his chest", but also metaphorically. He is unable to connect with his wife, unwilling to speak of his experiences, and so their loving relationship is affected. The image of the metal bullet still inside him as a "foetus" suggests that, like having a baby, the couple's relationship will be forever changed by what he has gone through.

Lines 23 and 24 present the metaphor of "a sweating, unexploded mine buried deep in his mind". The source of the problem is not physical but mental, and threatens to cause problems at any time. The importance of the wife's care and delicacy is highlighted by her discovery of this problem.

The poem is not about judging the rights and wrongs of war, but the impact of war on one particular relationship. This is made clear in the final line of the poem: "Then, and only then, did I come close". Her search is not fully successful, she only comes "close", and only after she realises that her husband's problems lie as much in memories of his experiences as they do in his physical scars.

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