Analysis, Central Idea and Theme of No Men are Foreign
Critical Analysis of No Men are Foreign:
This poem is an ardent appeal on the poet’s part to rid our hearts of xenophobia and embrace the unity of man as a whole. The poet says that wars are fought against those whom we believe are different from ourselves. Most of the time this difference is artificially constructed on the basis of the fact that such men hail from a different part of the world than we do. However, such divisions are detrimental on all counts. They are also based on false beliefs. The truth is that every member of the human race is the same. He has the same kind of physical appearance because he is descended from the same set of ancestors. He experiences the same joys and sorrows as everyone else. He has seen both war and peace, just as we have. Hence, he is not different from us in any way.
Therefore, we have no right to hate him or kill him. If we do so, it is a form of self-destruction that we are engaging in. We are endangering the survival of the human race on the earth. It is our duty to stick together and take care of our home that had been passed on to us by our worthy ancestors. If we do so, only then will we be able to pass this home down to our future generations. This is an important message for the poet to be giving in the middle of the twentieth century when this poem was written. As we know, the beginning of that century saw the birth of nations and the imposition of boundaries between such nations. This was thought to be a necessary step in the advancement of the world as we know it. However, these boundaries only ended up fostering negative emotions such as hatred and discrimination. That is why the poet longs for the past when such territorial disputes did not exist at all, and man was more unified than he is at present.
Annotation of No Men are Foreign:
Please note: N= noun, V=verb, Adj=Adjective, Adv=Adverb, P=Preposition
Foreign (Adj): Of, from, in, or characteristic of a country or language other than one’s own
Uniforms (N): Plural form of the word “uniform”, that is, the distinctive clothing worn by members of the same organization or body or by children attending certain schools
Earth (N): The substance of the land surface; soil
Harvests (N): Plural form of the word “harvest”, that is, the season’s yield or crop
Starv’d (V): Short form of the word “starved”, which is, in turn, the past participle form of the word “starve”, that is, cause to suffer or die from hunger
Labour (N): Work, especially physical work
Recognise (V): Identify (someone or something) from having encountered them before; know again
Dispossess (V): Deprive (someone) of land, property, or other possessions
Betray (V): Be gravely disloyal to
Condemn (V): Sentence (someone) to a particular punishment, especially death
Arms (N): Weapons; armaments
Defile (V): Damage the purity or appearance of; mar or spoil
Hells (N): Plural form of the word “hell”, that is, the dwelling place of Satan, devils, and wicked souls condemned to eternal punishment after death; a place of pain and torment
Outrage (V): Arouse fierce anger, shock, or indignation in (someone)
Poetic Devices in No Men are Foreign:
The poet does not follow any identifiable rhyme scheme in this poem.
Apostrophe: This rhetorical device is used when a poet addresses his or her poem to an absent audience. In this poem, the poet uses the device of the apostrophe as he addresses all his advice directly to his readers.
This rhetorical device is used when a poet addresses his or her poem to an absent audience. In this poem, the poet uses the device of the apostrophe as he addresses all his advice directly to his readers.
This rhetorical device is used when a covert comparison is made between two different things or ideas. In this poem, the poet uses the device of metaphor on the 3rd line as he compares his fellow human beings with his own brothers. He again uses it on the 6th line when he compares war with winter since reduced resources are available at both those sides. He uses it for the last time in the 18th line when he compares wars with hells.
This rhetorical device consists in the use of several conjunctions in close succession, especially where some could otherwise be omitted. In this poem, the poet uses the device of polysyndeton on the 5th line when he writes “ sun and air and water”, repeating the conjunction “and” unnecessarily.
This rhetorical device is used when an emotion is attributed to a non-living thing after being displaced from a person, most often the poet himself or herself. In this poem, the poet uses the device of the transferred device on the 6th line when he writes the phrase “peaceful harvests”. It is not the harvests themselves that are peaceful, but peaceful social and political conditions that prevent a shortage of crops or famine and make harvests possible.
Central Idea of No Men are Foreign:
The poet believes that war is caused by the false beliefs of people who have ceased to believe in the essential unity of man. These are xenophobes who believe that a man hailing from a different country is to be hated and discriminated against. However, the poet assures his readers that man is just the same everywhere. He experiences the same joys and sorrows and has been descended from the same ancestors. Therefore, he is justified in asking his readers to do away with xenophobia and expel it from their minds and hearts.
Themes of the Poem:
Ill effects of xenophobia:
According to the poet, xenophobia or the fear of foreigners is the very basis of war. This fear leads us to hate our brothers and endanger the future of the human species on the earth. It leads us to forget that all men are descended from common ancestors and that they share a common fate. That is why the poet tells his readers to expel xenophobia from their hearts forever.
Unity of man:
The poet goes to great lengths in this poem to show that man is essentially the same everywhere. He experiences the same joys and sorrows and goes through the same trials and tribulations. He has seen both war and peace. Thus, he has seen times of bountiful and abundant availability of food, as well times of food scarcity and famine. This is what common life is constituted of, and one can find this no matter how far and wide one travel. Therefore, what the poet really wants to say is that man is united and should remain that way. He should not hate and discriminate among his fellow beings. Instead, he should love them and stand up for them in their times of need. He should not wage war. Instead, he should build up a community of mutual respect with those who hail from different lands than he does.
The tone of No Men are Foreign:
The tone of this poem is rather disparaging. Most of the poem is like a warning to the human race telling them to change their ways. The poet knows that he must show his readers the ultimate effect of xenophobia to make them realize how bad it can affect them. Therefore, he does not hesitate to do so.
If readers are willing to read between the lines of “No Men Are Foreign”, they will see that the poet is not just teaching us a lesson or warning us about our endangered future. He is also showing us the contrary picture and giving us a message of encouragement. He is showing what an easy solution there is to our problems. We must learn simply not to hate, and then our world will be a better place.