Irony and Sarcasm in A Mystery of Heroism and War is Kind

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Irony and Sarcasm in A Mystery of Heroism and War is Kind

In literature, similar themes are portrayed in many different ways, mostly according to the time period they were written in. A new generation of writers came of age after the civil war, known as the realists. They dominated American fiction from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. They took their ideas from the slums of the rapidly growing cities at that time, from the factories replacing farmland, and from the every day common people: poor factory workers, corrupt politicians, soldiers, and even prostitutes. Realists sought to accurately portray real life. One of those Realist writers was Stephen Crane (1871-1900).

In the short story "A Mystery of Heroism" and his poem "War is Kind" Stephen Crane uses irony and sarcasm to effectively portray his attitudes about war and to mock Romantic heroism.

In the story, at first sight no one could be called a hero. There are many characteristics that mark a true hero, someone that stands up for his beliefs and dies for it if he has to, not just dying in war or in a horrible way. The motive is what truly counts. In "Mystery", Collins is just a symbol for the common crowd. He strives for the feeling of heroism by doing something courageous. He is one of many, but definitely no hero. The passing of the battlefield to get to the water could just be seen as the war scene itself. There are no heroes; we all do what we have to do. "…Human expression had said loudly for centuries that men should feel afraid of certain things and that all men who did not feel this fear were phenomena, heroes. He was then a hero...After all, heroes were not much" (Mystery, p.490). This quote is totally ironical, because ...

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...nd die, sometimes unknowing what they were fighting for or how it started. They travel on horses, by foot, they go into battle, risk their lives, die by the thousands. Later on, all that is left are ruins and corpses. Mostly, people are angrier than before. There was no purpose, it was meaningless, no goals were accomplished, and we ask ourselves if it was necessary to do it. The outcome usually is worse. In the poem his repetitive line "War is Kind" is using irony to explain the same idea. "Do not weep, babe, for war is kind. Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches, raged at his breast, gulped, and died…"(p.494). Romanticists would go beyond and find some beauty, some heroic act, a dim light in the distance, while Crane realizes the truth and tells us to open our eyes, to see the tears, and the destruction, and the blood, there is no point in war.
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