What poetic devices are used in the poem "War is Kind" to create the theme?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Crane's poem “War is Kind” shows a deep understanding of those who are left behind when a solider fights a war.  First of all, there is irony.  The title uses irony, because war is not really kind.  It is a relief that a solider dies to end his suffering, but war is not literally kind.  

Another feature of almost all of Crane’s writing, especially the war works, is the detailed imagery.  Crane describes a “field where a thousand corpses lie” (line 11), a soldier who “threw wild hands toward the sky” (line 2), “yellow trenches” (line 13) and the “swift blazing flag of the regiment,/Eagle with crest of red and gold” (line 17-18).

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,

     Little souls who thirst for fight,

     These men were born to drill and die. (enotes etext)

The sensory details allow you to hear the drums booming, while the figurative language drives the point home.  The personification of souls, especially calling them “little,” makes the scene not just real but sentimental.  Figurative language is also used throughout the poem, to make concepts larger than life.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button

On the bright splendid shroud of your son (line 23-24).

The similes used in these two lines appeal to our emotions, and direct us to feel as the poet feels- joyous images (“bright splendid”) are juxtaposed with melancholy ones (“hear hung humble as a button” and “shroud”).  This purposefully creates Crane's paradoxical view of war as both terrible and ironically kind.


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