There are two distinctive voices in this text. One is of the Recruiting Officer at the beginning of the song. His voice is persuasive and friendly. He refers to the young man as "son," suggesting he could be a father figure and would be supportive and encouraging. He uses a rhetorical question to interest the young man further, asking him, "...what would you say if I said that you could?" Furthermore, he persuades the young man to join the army by tapping into a number of opportunities that are attractive to young men: travel, guns and money. He uses the question, "...have you seen the world?" as a metaphor to appeal to the young man's desire to travel.
The young man initially has a fairly naive voice, perhaps suggesting the lack of thought that some people put into making such a big commitment. The fact the officer's offer "...sounds pretty good" and his shorter hair "...looked all right" show a fairly relaxed approach to the changes he is facing.
As he relates his experiences, the young man's voice becomes progressively less enamoured of life in the army. He moves from the excitement of marching and singing as "...We all became friends..." to the shame of seeing his comrades physically abuse a captive where he "...told them to stop/ But then I joined in..."
The tragic events of the final verse create a particularly poignant tone. This is demonstrated through his desperate plea not to have to shoot a woman who is walking towards him as he "...begged her to stay." He then gives the bullets a life of their own, using personification as they "...jumped through the smoke..." to take this woman's life. It is at this point that the true tragedy is revealed through a simile: he did not want to kill the woman and, unseen by the soldier, she had been carrying "...a flag white as snow."
The idea of the flag is a recurrent one, as the soldier recognises that the flag of one's country is a powerful symbol of the freedom that the soldier is fighting for....