What devices does Crane uses in "War Is Kind?"

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Stephen Crane uses imagery and irony in his poem "War is Kind." By using multiple examples of concrete imagery, he appeals to the reader's senses, conveying in a visceral way the horrors of war. Crane describes the maiden's lover, who throws "wild hands towards the sky" as his "affrighted steed (runs) on alone," painting a vivid picture of a soldier shot down on his horse. In the next section, he talks about a babe's father who also suffers a gory death, tumbling "in the yellow trenches, rag(ing) at his breast, gulp(ing) and (dying)," and in the last section, he refers to the heartrending scene of a mother viewing the "bright splendid shroud" of her son. The effect of the imagery is to allow the reader to see and hear the realities of war, to experience its devastation with the senses and emotions.

The poem relies heavily on an irony which is deeply bitter. By interspersing the stark words "war is kind" repeatedly between his vividly tragic depictions of battle and its results, he clearly makes the point that those who adhere to a romantic notion of war are dead wrong. His effective use of irony is brought home in the indented stanzas, in which the platitudes associated with the idea of romantic heroism contrasts sharply with the non-indented stanzas, showing war in all its reality, and driving home the dark message of the writer.