Hitcher - Simon Armitage Notes

Summary of Simon Armitage's poem Hitcher

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Notes on Hitcher
Hitcher like a number of other poems in the anthology such as Salome, Havisham and the
Laboratory is told as a first person narrative. It is a dramatic monologue. In this poem the narrator is a
stressed employee who has been threatened with the sack if he doesn't get into work. For some reason he
has left his hired Vauxhall Astra somewhere away from home and ironically (considering what he does
later!) has to hitch a ride to pick it up.
When he's picked the car up he begins his journey and he picks up a hitchhiker. This is where
things take a dramatic turn for the worse. The hitcher explains to the narrator how he lives a free and
easy life, `with just a toothbrush and the good earth for a bed.' This obviously contrasts with the stress
the narrator feels and triggers a violent reaction. Maybe he resents both his lifestyle and the way he is
freeloading. He describes how he `let him have it' and smashed him in the face `six times with the
krooklok' (a device for locking the steering wheel on a car). The fact that he can be so precise about
how many times he hit him makes it all the more chilling. He is even proud that he `didn't even swerve'.
The narrator then explains how he changed gear and pushed the hitcher out, callously watching
him `bouncing off the kerb.' He doesn't seem in the slightest bit concerned about what he has done as he
then mentions the time, (twelve noon) and that the weather forecast was `moderate to fair'. To compound
this chilling portrait he even makes a joke at the end.
Aside from being a first person narrative one of the language features of this poem is the use of
colloquialisms and cliché. The narrator uses everyday words such as `stitch that', `I dropped it into third,'
`I thumbed a lift' whilst the hitcher talks in clichés saying how the `truth is blowing in the wind' and `he
follows the sun from east to west. This reinforces the idea of the narrator being just an ordinary man
and the hitcher being a hippy.
So what is the poem about under the surface? Armitage has said that really the narrator and
hitcher are two sides of the same person, himself, as he says they were the same age `give or take a week'.
The narrator represents the world of business and commerce, which Armitage rejected, and the hippy
represents the artistic world, which Armitage embraced. He then goes on to show that business puts little
value on the arts and metaphorically beats it up all the time.
Poems to compare it with include The Man he Killed, Education for Leisure and The Laboratory
which all deal with death.


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