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Truth about War in Stephen Crane’s Poem ‘Do Not Weep, Maiden, for War Is Kind’ – Free Essay Example

The poem ‘Do Not Weep, Maiden, for War Is Kind’ by Stephen Crane was published in 1895 during the period of realism in American literature. The American poet Stephen Crane was born in 1871 and has had many popular works that take place during and have been influenced by the Civil War, including this piece. Although Crane was born after the Civil War, the effects that it had on reality still lived on into his day, and its effects are the true heart of the realism time period in American literature. Realism versus idealism was the biggest factor in the realism time period in American literature. Escaping reality was a need for people during this time due to their homeland being at war with itself. An easy way to escape the reality was to dream of a utopian one and think of an ideal lifestyle. War was and still is painted to be seen as a glorifying act that should be honored by everyone. Crane’s poem deals with and discusses the tragic reality of war and how it was wrongly portrayed by the people of his time.

As the poem begins, the first line has a juxtaposition within it creating an effect of irony. The opening statement, “Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind”, symbolizes the irony of the time period of the Civil War, and reiterates the fact that war was masked and portrayed as a benefactor. The speaker seems to be the poet himself and he creates a calm and sympathetic mood discussing the maiden’s ‘lover’ and his victory against the enemy. The opening line is repeated in a different way at the end of the first, third, and fifth stanzas creating repetition. The act of repeating the line emphasizes the nature of ignorance that people had of how terrible war actually was and how they tried to make it sound like it was not harmful by any means. The speaker in this poem acts as an archetype for society during the time period.

Although the poem is not written in iambic pentameter and does not have a rhyme scheme, the structure of the poem alone has an effect on the point the poet is trying to make. The first, third, and fifth stanzas have no indentation, however, the second and fourth stanzas do. Indentation could be interpreted as something not being on the surface or in plain sight. In stanzas one, three, and five the speaker is telling the maiden that her father and lover are glorified because they were involved in the war and fought against the enemy. Their victory is seen, but the harrowing, exhausting, deadly part of war is not seen until the second and fourth stanzas where the indentation takes place. The shift in the poem happens here, and the indentation symbolizes something hidden within the surface that is not seen at a first glance, much like the true reality of war and what it actually consists of.

The second and fourth stanzas introduce visual and auditory imagery that establishes Cranes opinions about war and the theme that he is trying to get across. Crane paints the pictures of what goes on during war through his visual imagery of battlefields “where a thousand corpses lie” (Stanza 2, line 6) and the auditory image of the “Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment” (Stanza 2, line 1). Soldiers lay wounded at the result of victory, and many young lives are lost. The speaker remarks that “These men were born to drill and die” (Stanza 2 and 4, line 3), showing that the young men that were put into battle were now basically born to fight and die. The boys were brought up to a certain age and watched after until they went to war. Their whole lives led up to their death sentence that war shed upon them according to Crane. The drums would sound as soldiers would march into battle, and the use of the word ‘booming’ transports readers and makes them feel as if they are actually there in the moment and makes them feel as if they can hear and see what is going on. The act of hearing and seeing his images makes readers see the terrible ordeal that war actually was which is Cranes main motivation for writing the poem. The contrast between what society sees versus what actually goes on happens in the second and fourth stanzas with the dramatic shift. The irony is present when the shift occurs.

The imagery continues in the third stanza and shifts back to the light mood that the first stanza embodied. The speaker addressing the maiden as ‘babe’ shows the act of caring and sharing a close relationship. Discussing the maiden’s father and the maiden’s lover shows the fact that she had companions that went into battle and were close to her. The speaker ironically reassures the maiden that “war is kind” after explaining that her father died in battle. The act of saying “war is kind” after that represents the glory that people put on the soldiers after dying in battle, instead of accepting and embracing their death as a true tragedy.

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The closing of the poem is the final push in Cranes opinions about wars brutality and damage. The final image is of a mother’s son being wrapped in a shroud after dying in battle (Stanza 5, line 2). This is the final image of the poem, along with the final moment of a young soldier’s life. The brutality of war was real, and it wasn’t fully seen by bystanders. The glory and sacrifice that the soldiers went through was respectfully seen, but the act of accepting its damage was ignored by many during this time period.

Through his use of powerful imagery, keen structure, and heavy irony, Stephen Crane establishes his beliefs about war and its effects in hopes of communicating to all that was is not solely about sacrifice and honor; it is about pain, loss, and fear as well.

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