What are the tone of the speaker and the meaning of the second line of "War is Kind"?
The tone of the second line of "War is Kind" is bitterly ironic because it is suggestive of a man having been near the explosion of a cannon ball as he is powerfully jolted out of the saddle while his terrified horse runs on alone and he falls to the ground in death.
Stephen Crane's poem exposes the hypocrisies of the many myths of heroic glory that soldiers supposedly experienced in wars. The Civil War soldier who throws his arms upward with his "wild hands" that seem to reach for the sky does not offer himself to any glory. Instead, he is merely a wobbling victim at the will of the force of a weapon of war. Furthermore, his frantic gesture of extending his hands to the sky seems almost a parodical act of an ancient warrior offering himself to the gods of war.
Further in the poem, Crane writes that there is an "excellence in killing," perhaps ironically suggesting that death is better than living with terrible injuries. After all, there is the glory of dying for one's country and the "splendid shroud" placed on the soldier's casket. Truly, this naturalistic poem satirizes the Romantic visions of earlier poems and tales about the glory of war.
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