Though both of the poems, “To The Mercy Killers” by Dudley Randall and “How Annandale Went Out” by Edwin Arlington Robinson, reflect similar themes of death, sickness, and the longing need to be understood, they do not encompass similar beliefs about death itself. In fact, the poems take opposing sides on whether euthanasia is appropriate in certain circumstances based on the point of view from characters the poems vaguely establish. In “How Annandale Went Out “, the main perspective is from an apathetic physician. Throughout the first stanza of the poem, we meet Annandale – an ill person whose “sight was not so fair” (line 4). From Annandale’s condition, it was apparent that he was on the brink of death. The first stanza states, “with hell between him and the end” (line 7) and the only person there to console him was the physician.
In the second stanza, there’s a shift: he apathetic physician develops empathy for poor, sick Annandale.The lines stated in the second stanza begin as a riddle: at first asking to remember “the worst we know of him,” then asking to step in his shoes and “view ourselves as he was” (lines 11 – 12). He also mentions that he was “on the spot – with a slight kind of engine” (lines 12 – 13). This depicts that the physician was given a sudden scenario where he was placed on the spot, or on edge. The “engine” mentioned is a metaphor for what drives the physician.
While trying to “view ourselves as he was,” it’s understood that if we are to step fully into the narrator’s shoes, then not only do we need to know the “worst” of him, not only do we need to know the situation he was placed in, but we also need to know what motives him to do what he does. The “engine” is the physician’s guilt of seeing Annandale in so much pain and desperation to do something to alleviate it, thus causing the physician to euthanize him. However, euthanasia is highly controversial and seen as immoral in most cases, due to the fact that it’s basically assisted suicide. Knowing this, the physician defends his choice by implying that in that situation anyone would have done what he done; that you wouldn’t dare hang him for being a compassionate person. By the end of this poem, we can clearly see that the main character saw death has a pain killer pun intended. He justified his act by acting out of sympathy. This belief is completely dismissed in “To The Mercy Killers”, where life seems to be the only thing Randall’s character focuses on. The poem is from the standpoint from another very ill person, similar to Annandale.
Yet, despite the pain, this person refuses to die. This person acknowledges that there are people whose thoughts mirror the physician’s – that the act of killing him is merciful and out of compassion; hence the title, “To The Mercy Killers”. He also recognizes how dier his situation is and how the idea of finishing him off seems to be irresistible to a “mercy killer” by stating the obvious: “even though I be a clot, an aching clench, a stub, a stump, a butt, a scap, a knob, a screaming pain, a putrefying stench” (lines 5 – 7). This type of self-deprecating, gory description continues throughout the following lines, however it highlights just how much the character wants to live through symbolic irony. The line “let me still glow” (line 14) is an ironic statement because it implies that the speaker still wants to be alive despite the hardships and misery. This plays into the overarching irony of the poem where regardless of this person’s conditions, they want to live.
These poems demonstrate how even though similar themes can be showcased, the overall stance on an issue can be completely opposed. In Randall’s “To The Mercy Killers”, his character longs to touch the warm glow of life, despite being at death’s door. In Robinson’s “How Annandale Went Out”, his character demonstrates why he felt the need to rid someone of their pain.