The Manhunt Analysis by Simon Armitage

In this article, we are going to analyzing the poem The Manhunt by Simon Armitage.

About the Manhunt Poem:

This poem explores the relationship between a soldier and his wife after he comes back from war. It is written from the point of view of the wife and shows how she struggles to get her husband to open up to her about what has happened to him.

The poem describes in detail the physical and metal damage the soldier has sustained.

It was written for a documentary called 'Forgotten Heroes: The Not Dead" In the Documentary the poem was read by Laura, the wife of Eddie Beddoes, a soldier who was wounded Bosnia in the 1990s.

The Manhunt Analysis:

Stanza 1 and 2

After the first phase,
after passionate nights and intimate days,
only then would he let me trace
the frozen river which ran through his face,

The entire poem is written in two-line stanzas suggesting a slow process unfolding.

These words 'passionate and intimate' suggest that the couple initially spend all their time together reconnecting physically...

The line 'only then' is repeated throughout the poem, suggesting that it is a slow process for the solider to let his wife look at his injuries.

The scar on the face is like a river - long, uneven and perhaps suggesting blood that ran down his face when first injured. The fact that it is a scar also suggests that the injury has had time to heal so was sustained a while ago.

Stanza 3 and 4

only then would he let me explore
the blown hinge of his lower jaw
and handle and hold
the damaged, porcelain collar bone,
'Only then' Repeated from stanza two.

This metaphor suggests the violence of this injury.

The alliteration could suggest that the wife is being very careful when touching him.

These two words 'blown and damage' suggest the violence that caused the injuries.

Porcelain is a delicate type of China, showing how delicate the man's bones are.

Stanza 5 and 6

and mind and attend
the fractured rudder of shoulder-blade,
and finger and thumb
the parachute silk of his punctured lung.
Only then could I bind the struts
and climb the rungs of his broken ribs,
Again the words 'mind and attend' suggest that the wife is very careful when touching him.

The words 'fractured, punctured, broken' that again suggests how easily the man was broken.

'Parachute silk of his..' reminds us how delicate the human body is, like the porcelain collarbone in the previous stanza.

Stanza 7 and 8

and feel the hurt
of his grazed heart.
Skirting along,
only then could I picture the scan,
'grazed heart' This description changes the tone of the poem, suggesting for the first time that the injuries are more than just physical.

'only then' Repeated again, but not at the start of the stanza this time, to suggest the process of the wife understanding what has happened is moving on.

Only after seeing all his injuries does she start to imagine the x-rays that would have been taken to see internal injuries.

Stanza 9 and 10
the foetus of metal beneath his chest
where the bullet had come to rest.
Then I widened the search,
traced the scarring back to its source
'foetus of metal' The metaphor comparing a bullet to a foetus - suggesting it has the potential to grow into something bigger, or that it is itself alive.

The line 'Then i widened the search' suggests she is thinking about the wider consequences of his injuries - the damage to his mind.

'Scarring, source' Sibilance gives the scarring a sinister sound.

Stanza 11 and 12
to a sweating, unexploded mine
buried deep in his mind, around which
every nerve in his body had tightened and closed.
Then, and only then, did I come close.

'sweating' The mine is personified, like that the 'foetus', again suggesting it is alive. The whole line is a metaphor for the mental damage the soldier has sustained.


The word 'deep' suggests it will be hard or impossible to get rid of the 'mine'.

'Tightened and closed' These words suggest that the man is closed off from his wife and tense all the time because of what he has seen,

'only then' Repeated for the final time - suggesting that she understands better what has happened, but will never be able to fully 'come close' to understanding what he has been through. 


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