"The War Prayer" Twain

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A Portrayal of Patriotism What is patriotism? In today’s society, when hearing the word patriotism most people first think of the United States flag waving high in the air, the colors red, white, and blue, or the fireworks and parades on the fourth of July. There is more to patriotism than just these symbols and events. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of patriotism is “love for or devotion to one’s country.” Patriotism may be viewed in a positive way or a negative way depending on the person’s perspective, the period in history, or simply how a person was raised. Within Howells’s “Editha” and Twain’s “The War Prayer” one can find contrasting examples to illustrate the multiple perspectives of patriotism. To begin with, Twain describes our country’s attitude towards the war throughout his short story, “The War Prayer.” He starts by describing the scene of a patriotic parade. He writes, “The drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering.” These words set a joyful, proud, and excited tone to the story. The young men have volunteered to fight in the war in pursuit of victory for their country. Patriotism is one’s love for the country. Twain really brings this to the reader’s attention by the selfless devotion of the preachers, mothers, fathers, sisters and sweethearts who are cheering graciously for their young men who have volunteered to fight. The community gathers in churches to pray for the young men’s victory, and to beseech upon their god for aid in the war. Once the war has ceased, the young men return home “submerged in golden seas of glory.” This is another example of how Twain wants readers to understand how the young men were enveloped with the gratitude of their dear ones and their fellow man. Although this short story begins with a positive tone, it ends in a much different manner.
Furthermore, Twain shows the opposing perspective of



Cited: Twain, Mark. “The War Prayer.” (1905). The Heath Anthology of American Literature, 5th ed., Vol.C. Ed. Paul Lauter. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. 104-06. Print. Howells, William Dean. “Editha.” (1905). The Heath Anthology of American Literature, 5th ed., Vol.C. Ed. Paul Lauter. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. 269-79. Print.

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