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

Poetic devices used in the poem "War is Kind" to create a theme include apostrophe, repetition, and hyperbole. Crane employs apostrophe when he directly addresses a maiden and a babe. He enlists repetition when he repeats phrases like "war is kind." He also makes use of hyperbole since some of the imagery is quite sensational.

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The first poetic device I notice in Stephen Crane's poem "War is Kind" is apostrophe. Apostrophe is when the poet or speaker addresses a specific someone. It's almost as if the poem wasn't a poem but a personal letter intended for a single individual.

In "War is Kind," Crane,...

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The first poetic device I notice in Stephen Crane's poem "War is Kind" is apostrophe. Apostrophe is when the poet or speaker addresses a specific someone. It's almost as if the poem wasn't a poem but a personal letter intended for a single individual.

In "War is Kind," Crane, at first, speaks directly to a "maiden." Then he speaks directly to a "babe." It's quite possible the "maiden" and the "babe" are the same person. But I don't think that's very relevant to your question.

Another poetic device is repetition. This poetic device should be rather obvious. It's when the poet repeats words or phrases. As you might have noticed, Crane repeats the phrases "do not weep" and "war is kind" throughout the poem.

The repetition leads to another poetic device: rhythm. As with songs, poems have rhythm. They have a melody, a sound, and a beat. It's almost as if "do not weep" and "war is kind" function as a chorus.

One more poetic device I can tell you about is hyperbole. In order to illuminate the harsh and devastating nature of war, Crane employs hyperbole. Hyperbole is when a poet purposely exaggerates or overdramatizes in order to better make their point.

I don't think it would be too off base to call Crane's imagery a tad extreme. Lines like "These men were born to drill and die" and "Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom" aren't subtle or mild. They're actually quite sensational and exuberant. Yet the overstatement helps Crane relay his message: war is not kind.

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Stephen Crane's "War is Kind" is an ironic poem. It means the opposite of what the title and the "war is kind" refrain say. What Crane is really communicating is that, although women (and men) are told a story that war is kind and virtuous, in reality war is cruel and horrible.

Crane uses the poetic devices of repetition and juxtaposition to emphasize the irony of saying war is kind. Like Antony in a famous speech in Julius Caesar, who conveyed that Brutus and the other men who assassinated Caesar were dishonorable by repeating that they were "honorable men" over and over, Crane ironizes "war is kind" by repeating it as an empty mantra. It's meaninglessness is highlighted by juxtaposing the phrase, along with "do not weep," against imagery that shows the actual horror of war. Imagery is another poetic device, in which a scene is described using the five senses of sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch.

Imagery, which shows rather than tells, is a powerful way of telling a story. Crane uses such images as

your lover threw wild hands toward the sky [as he died] [...]

A field where a thousand corpses lie

and

your father tumbled in the yellow trenches, Raged at his breast, gulped and died

juxtaposed against the empty statement "war is kind" to show that war is anything but kind.

The ironized juxtaposition occurs on a more granular level as well: the word "virtue" is placed near "slaughter," and "excellence" is placed near "killing." We read of the "splendid shroud of your son," and the words splendid and shroud create a jarring juxtaposition of a positive adjective and a negative image, for a shroud is a cloth that wraps around a dead body.

Crane also uses the poetic device of alliteration in the line "splendid shroud of your son," repeating the "s" sound three times at the beginning of words, which puts the emphasis on splendid, shroud, and son. This again highlights the irony: no parent of a son is likely to find his shroud splendid. Crane employs alliteration again in the ironic: "Great is the battle-god, great [...]" and in "weep" and "war" in the refrain.

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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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