john foulcher introduction

Martin is a young boy presenting a grenade to his classmates as part of a show and tell segment of a history lesson. The classes’ reaction to the grenade is one of great excitement. In contrast, the narrator, the classroom history teacher, is disgusted by the weapon and the children’s excited reaction.


The main theme of the poem is the differing attitudes towards weapons which are symbolic of war. From that stems three other key themes – the debate about the inherent violence in the human spirit, the fascination with weapons versus the disgust for weapons, and the dichotomy that exists between our heads and our hearts. Foulcher also addresses other dichotomies – the past and the present, boys and men, innocence and experience, and of course, most obviously, the classroom and the battle field.

Foulcher puts forth a controversial topic for his adult audience to debate – the inherent violence in the human spirit. He uses the pun ‘mind fields’, as opposed to ‘mine fields’, to convey the violent and destructive fantasies gripping the children as they hold the grenade above their heads. Foulcher is, in a sense, posing the theory that the grenade is awakening the latent violence and propensity for destruction that exists just below the surface in all of us. He begs the question, perhaps violent and destructive fantasies are inherent in all humans, but by adulthood most of us have been conditioned to suppressed our fantasies in light of the devastating repercussions of acting upon them. In his poems “Martin and the Hand Grenade” and “Harry Wood”, Foulcher explores the ideas of the difference between adults and children in their interpretation of warfare. Foulcher also explains the ideas that man has a violet streak which can lead to destruction. In the second poem, the composer conveys the selfishness of living only to acquire wealth and how material possessions do not ultimately bring happiness and fulfillment. Foulcher uses his senses and a variety of techniques to convey his ideas and experiences.

The poems “Martin and the Hand Grenade “is based on a personal experience that Foulcher had had while teaching at a boys school in one of his history lessons. This poem portrays the idea that adults and children have a different view of war and violence. Foulcher uses a number of techniques to create a vivid image of the incident in our minds and allows us to picture ourselves observing the same thing that Foulcher describes that is happening in the classroom. Martin, a history teacher brought a defused Hand Grenade into the lesson to allow his students to observe a real weapon in which is relevant to their area of study (World War II) Just as Martin displays the Grenade, the class “pause for history “witch means that they immediately look towards the front where Martin has held the weapon.

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