Explication of war is kind Essay

Stephen Crane’s poem “War is Kind” is an anti war poem written in the late 19th century. The author is very critical of war and questions if the loss of life and limb are worth it. Through the use of structure and sarcasm Stephen Crane persuades the reader to look at war through his eyes in a very critical manner.

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The very title, “War is Kind” is sarcastic. The reader however, does not find this out immediately. The poem is structured into five stanzas that seem to go back and forth, brilliance explained upon further examination. In the first third and final stanzas Crane tells about the glories of war such as a lover going off to fight for his maiden and the “Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment” that put the soldier in a good light as a proud noble warrior. These stanzas are aimed at consoling those affected by war. The author tells them “don’t weep, war is kind” which is a lie. He does not hide anything about they way they died speaking of the lover who “threw wild hands towards the sky and the affrighted steed ran alone.”

The reader can easily imagine a young man taking a bullet and throwing up his hands as he falls off his horse and tumble to the battle field to join “a field where a thousand corpses lie,” and of a father who “tumbled in the yellow trenches, raged his breast, gulped and died” a line that puts a very graphic image oaf soldier encountering mustard gas for the first time and his horrid death in the grave that is the trench that he himself has dug. This paints a glorious, however still not pretty picture of how a soldier died but Crane is still not condemning war in these stanzas but seems to be pointing out that in the stereotypical scene of one consoling the loved one of a soldier lost in battle if one is honest then it is impossible to speak of war in a glorious light. The second and fourth stanzas provide the reader with the gritty truth of war.

It is as if the other stanzas are speeches given to those by a cynical officer telling the loved ones of how these soldiers died often going in to too much gory detail and then in reaction to teared up eyes says “don’t weep, war is kind” although in this case how can one expect them not to weep. The 2nd and fourth stanzas are like the same officer talking of these men to a fellow soldier of the true horrors these men endured and the pointless nature of how and for what they died. In these “truthful” stanzas men do not simply die. There “little souls who thirst for fight” are ripped apart as there bodies are torn and they fall to join this field of a thousand corpses.

Crane repeats “these men were born to drill and die” meaning not that they were eager to die for their cause, however true that may be, but that they were not treated as humans with souls but as pawns of war led like the lamb towards “the virtue of slaughter” believing in “the excellence of killing” This structure if looked upon the way of an officer traveling to loved ones of dead soldiers to deliver the news of their deaths exposes those who release information on war as knowing deceivers who falsely portray war in a kind light.

When one thinks of war, they oftentimes think of glory, honor and patriotism. However Crane is pleading with the reader to re-evaluate their view on war by exposing war for what it really is. “War is Kind” is infused with sarcasm. Even the title of the poem is a curious choice of words that immediately shows the sarcastic tone that will come up throughout this poem. The speaker constantly tells individuals to not weep after describing in detail the manner of their loved ones deaths. He says things such as “your lover threw wild hands toward the sky” and “Raged at his breast, gulped and died.” How could the speaker, after describing that, not expect someone to weep? It is a horrible revelation to these people yet he is sarcastic in saying “Do not weep” and reiterating the satirical statement “War is kind,” although he describes it as anything but kind in the second and fourth stanzas. These two stanzas also possess sarcasm to persuade the reader to not believe the lie that is “war is kind”.

The sarcastic statement “unexplained glory flies” in line 9 comments on the misconstrued and misunderstood “glory” of war. Soldiers are often told they will achieve glory, honor and respect if they fight and die for their country or cause. However in reality these soldiers are only “born to drill and die” and lie in “a field where a thousand corpses lie.” The author pleads with them to not fight for their foreseen glory, for all they will achieve is a painful death. The most sarcastic lines of the piece are in lines 21-22 where it says “Point for them the virtue of slaughter, Make plain for them the excellence of killing.” This is truly a shocking and powerful combination of words to form two satirical lines that are used to comment on the absurdity of thinking killing and death is a glorious affair.

There is not virtue or excellence in killing, but the consoler from the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd stanzas would have you to believe there is and that it is worth suffering and dying for. Without these sarcastic statements, and the unique structure of opposing views mingled into one by the sarcastic nature of some of the lines, the anti-war sentiment of the piece would not have been as strongly evident and would have certainly taken away from the piece. The author, using these devices, makes a very compelling argument for not glorifying the horrific nature of the battlefield.

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