How does the poet's tone affect the meaning of "War Is Kind"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Stephen Crane, who was a war correspondent and saw the war victims and battles in all their carnage, writes with a satirical tone that employs bitter irony to underscore the senseless brutality and suffering of war. Certainly, in the second stanza Crane satirizes the chauvinistic propaganda about "battle-god(s)" and the "glory" of war with verbal irony:

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for a fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them,
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom

Of course, there is anything but "glory" in these men's dying since men are not really born to be soldiers. There is no "battle-god," nor can he have a kingdom, and battle, in which lives are lost that is "great".

Indeed, the satirical tone of this poem prevails throughout the verses. For instance, the speaker tells the child, "babe," not to weep because his father "Raged at his breast, gulped and died"; further, he tells the mother whose heart "hung humble as a button" on the "splendid shroud" of her son that she also should not weep since "war is kind."

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