Essay about Mark Twain's War Prayer Rhetorical Analysis

734 Words Jan 23rd, 2014 3 Pages
During the early 1900’s, Americans were caught up in the idea of imperialism, or extending their influence to other countries using military force. Mark Twain’s essay, The War Prayer, was written during this time, but argued against the popular philosophy of imperialism. Twain’s essay was too controversial and Harper’s Bazaar believed it was not suited for the public to read, so it went unpublished until after his death and after the idea of imperialism had lost its fervor. Twain’s essay discusses imperialism and its consequences. Twain uses two very different characters, a priest and a stranger, to contrast pro-imperialism and anti-imperialism. Ultimately, Twain’s essay reveals to readers that praying for success in war is also …show more content…
Twain describes the time of war as “a glad and gracious time,” and the victorious soldiers as “bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory!” His positive description of imperialism represents the common belief that war is a glorious event and a source of pride for the victors. Twain also describes those against the war, but in a negative light: “the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning...” Twain’s description of anti-imperialists and the treatment they received from others shows how unpopular and seemingly insane their ideas were. Though Twain himself was an anti-imperialist, he describes them in a negative way to gain readers. Most Americans in the early 1900’s were imperialists, and through a positive and prideful description of imperialism at the beginning of his essay, Twain is able to draw in many readers he would have offended if he wrote only of the horrors of imperialism. Twain’s word choice drew in more readers, causing many to now question imperialism. Twain’s word choice describing both pro- and anti-imperialists widens his audience, and his thoughts on the effects of imperialism are seen by more readers. His word choice effectively spreads his message.
The final sentence of Twain’s essay is a powerful and effective way to end The War Prayer. At the end of the essay, the stranger is described as “a lunatic, because…