Study Guide

War Is Kind Patriotism

By Stephen Crane

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The way people treat their country's flag is often seen as a measure of their patriotism, or lack thereof. And that's also why, once upon a time, armies used to carry their flags with them into battle: it was a symbol of what they were fighting for, and it was patriotic to die for it. "War Is Kind," however, chucks that whole idea right out the window. The flag in stanza 2, for example, is "unexplained." In addition, there's nothing really patriotic about the war; the soldiers don't appear to be fighting for anything in particular. After all, they were simply born to do this.

Questions About Patriotism

  1. Does the speaker seem patriotic to you? How about the mother, or the maiden? 
  2. What does the death of the babe's father say about patriotism? Does it seem like an admirable quality in this poem? 
  3. Why are the flags in this poem so generic? Why not mention a specific flag?

Chew on This

This poem makes patriotism seem cruel and pointless, since these soldiers were born to die anyway.

The colors on the flag in stanza 4 suggest that patriotism is closely related to death, because they evoke blood and sickness.

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