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I’d been tired, under the weather, but the ansaphone kept screaming: one more sick-note, mister, and you’re finished. Fired. I thumbed a lift to where the car was parked. A Vauxhall Astra. It was hired. I picked him up in Leeds. He was following the sun to west from east with just a toothbrush and the good earth for a bed. The truth, he said, was blowin’ in the wind, or round the next bend. I let him have it on the top road out of Harrogate – once with the head, then six times with the krooklok in the face – and didn’t even swerve. I dropped into third and lent across to let him out, and saw him in the mirror bouncing off the kerb, then disappearing down the verge. We were the same age, give or take a week. He said he liked the breeze to run its fingers through his hair. It was twelve noon. The outlook for the day was moderate to fair. Stitch that, I remember thinking, you can walk from there.

‘Hitcher’ Simon Armitage


All of the following quotes indicate a quality or personality trait of either the speaker in the poem, or the hitcher he attacks. Task: For each of the quotes, provide at least one adjective to demonstrate what this reveals about the character. (e.g. tired, annoyed, relaxed etc)


‘One more sick note, mister.....’. He was following the sun from east to west ‘I thumbed a lift.’

‘I’d been tired.’ ‘The ansaphone kept screaming.’

‘just a toothbrush and the good earth for a bed.’

‘The truth, he said, was blowin’ in the wind. ‘I let him have it.’ ‘Once to the head and then six times with the krooklok to the face’ ‘bouncing off the kerb.’ ‘He said he liked the breeze to run its fingers through his hair.’

‘Did n’t even swerve.’ ‘we were the same age, give or take a week.’


The Speaker/Driver

• • • • • • • • •

Unreliable A ‘shirker’ Tired, stressed. Frustrated with life. Brutal Violent Lack of guilt of conscience Gloating No regard for human life

The Hitcher

• Carefree • Lack of responsibilities or obligations. • Enjoys life. • Takes pleasure in nature. • A hippie.

What do you think is the Speaker’s motive for killing the Hitcher?


Technique This poem has an unusual structure of five stanzas with five lines of short, medium, and long lengths. Why do you think Armitage chose to use this structure?

Why do many of the lines run over into the next? What effect does this have? The poem is a ‘monologue’. Written in the first person in the form of continuous speech the character often leaves clues about themselves and their story. What effect does this have?


Summary (Personal Response) Which of the following statements do you agree with and what is the evidence for your decision?

1. It’s a poem about how stress can lead to random acts of violence. 2. It’s a poem which presents a deeply disturbed man in both a serious and comic way. 3. It’s an insight into the mind of a cold, calculating murderer. 4. It’s an extended metaphor: there is no real victim – the speaker comes to realise that dreams have no place in the real world and he ‘kills’ his freedom loving, imaginative side.

Hitcher_-_Armitage[1][1]  

and lent across to let himout, and saw himin themirror bouncing off thekerb, then disappearing down theverge. Wewerethesameage, giveor takea...

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