In Stephen Crane's "War is Kind," what is the symbolic meaning of "a field where a thousand corpses lie?"

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Though not a war veteran, Crane was a fearless war correspondent who dodged sniper fire to cover the war from a journalistic perspective.  As such, Crane is often cited as a pre-Imagist poet, in that he frames his poems visually, as if his visual imagery were a series of photographs in a montage, or even a moving picture.

  • In stanza 1, for instance, he zooms in to focus on the "lover."
  • In stanza 2, he pulls back to a long shot of "the men" and finishes with an extreme long shot of "a thousand corpses."  Gone with the Wind likewise has a high angle extreme long shot of the carnage of the Civil War.
  • In stanza 3, he zooms in to "your father"
  • In stanza 4, he pulls back to "these men" again
  • In stanza 5, he zooms in to "mother"

So, the symbolic meaning goes back and forth from the individual (1) to the collective (2).

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If this is symbolic, it is just that the actual field with a thousand corpses is used as a symbol for all fields of battle in general.  The field with a thousand corpses is said to be the kingdom of the battle god.

What Crane is saying here is that the god of battle is not really all that glorious -- not the way he is made out to be.  Instead, what you get for following this god is fields full of corpses.

So, the field is a symbol for all battlefields and it is meant to reinforce the main point of the poem -- that war causes only death.

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War Is Kind

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