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Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer”


Mark Twain, officially known as Samuel Langhorne Clemens, is a celebrated American author whose work and practice both in academic and political fields contributed immensely to shaping American literary history, socio-political environment, and global academic development. The author, a critic of American discriminative leadership, is a central figure in the development of American literature through his writing style, wits, appeal, and vibrant social experience (Tarnoff 866). After dropping out of school in his early years, Mark Twain pursued his academic and gained substantial work experience in American literature, journalism, politics, and war. His writing skills focused on tangible facts affecting Americans and society, which has made him relevant in American literary development history. As Mark Twain is a famous author in the United States, this essay discusses how one of his works, The War Prayer, has influenced and shaped American literary history.

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The War Prayer

In his prose poem, The War Prayer, Mark Twain, accuses Americans of being blind patriots and Christians of using prayer in encouraging war. Mark Twain uses the various elements of literature adopted in modern writing practices to portray the evil practices in society. These elements communicate the relevant mood, beliefs, and realities affecting society using theme, tone, point of view, plot, and setting. Moreover, the author employs literary styles such as satire, irony, humor, and imagery in portraying societal elements and pictures. The outstanding message in the poem is the author’s theme that condemns human suffering and blames it on unfair social policies and bad governance. Particularly, his ability to adopt an explicit sense of space, which cuts across time and society and gives criticism and inspiration to the youth and leaders, has significantly influenced American literature.

Comprehensive Literary Elements

In his literary work, the adoption of comprehensive and specific literary elements enriches the nature and message of The War Prayer. Pons argues that in addition to enhancing understanding and discussion of literary work, the use of different elements in modern literature aids to develop better forms of communication (23). Elements of literature are essential in deepening readers’ understanding of the story through the actualization of events and the diverse functions and contributions of characters. Mark Twain adopted various characters in his work to depict the tangible element of the presence of diverse personalities in society. The use of different characters enables readers to categorize individuals based on their social contribution to social cohesion and development. In character representation, big figures threaten the existence and contribution of small figures in social development. This element of social representation on a written work has a significant relationship to the American society, and thus, it influences the social and academic perception of individuals’ moral accountability. Therefore, one can infer that the use of multiple character representations in The War Prayer significantly shapes the advancement of American literary work as an important tool for identifying the facilitators of events in an environment.

By using a polite topic representing a religious dedication to supreme intervention in challenging times as an approach of relaying his message, the author hides his main theme. However, the writer’s intention aims to create consciousness in the horror of war. Thus, this approach helps to disguise the intended message from the reader, which appears within the body of the text and creates complexity in literary work. The adoption of this writing style improves the standards of literature that significantly creates interest in individuals on the academic work while promoting readers’ understanding of the intended message. Thus, the onward appreciation of concealing the intended communication inside the body of a written work has influenced new authors’ contributions to the development of a robust framework of writing and conveying information in American literature.

In enhancing understanding, Mark Twain utilizes a description of the context by employing painted words to facilitate readers’ actualization of the circumstances central to the theme. The setting provides a cultural and historical context of characters. In the literary work, the author shows a sequence of events relating to the occurrence of war through ‘the servant of God” intervention (Twain), and the social perception of his mental condition, which builds a backdrop of events and creates the desired mood for the conceptualization of the work. The crumbling and aging stranger reflects the decaying and none reparable state of both the social values and cohesion. In this view, the author considerably contributes to the advancement of American literature by scaling the perfect model for the creation of invaluable work.

The literary work provides a causal sequence of events that happen in the social setup of the story. Twain narrates, “Sunday morning came-next day the battalions would leave for the front…” (Twain). Utilization of plot draws the reader into characters’ lives and enhances understanding of the possible choices at their disposal over a given event. The plot elements used by the author include exposition, complication, and climax. In the literature, the author utilized compilation at the start of the story in communicating social conflict. However, the entry of the servant of God acted as the expected turning point in the story for the characters to resolve the complication.

Mark Twain employed tonal variation throughout his work by adopting an appeal to senses, facts, and choices of language that catapult the actualization of events in society. Variation in character dialogue evokes emotions with each character’s language being consistent, realistic, and natural. Twain says that“…then in a deep voice he said…” (Twain). The tonal variation expresses the writer’s attitude on the subject matter and contribution of the characters. Mark Twain employed a hopeful and optimistic tone to instill a sense of pride in soldiers and Americans who romanticized and praised war (Tarnoff 866). The change in tone creates the author’s desired effect on readers while communicating his/her feelings towards the subject (Pons 25). Additionally, tonal variation aids to communicate the struggle between various forces and the contradictory stance of characters. Writers deliberately employ this approach of communicating the author’s attitude to convey individual perception on themes that contribute immensely to the development of American literature over time.

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Literary Styles

Literary styles reflect the way authors present their literary work and enable understanding among readers. According to Pons, literary styles are essential in constructing a unique perception of events through the creation of unlimited imaginations, interpretation of meanings, and the establishment of unique knowledge (38). Literary styles involve the use of figurative language, word choice, and proper sentence formation to create means through which authors deliver a message, conceal intended meaning, add depth to literary work, criticize, and induce amusement.


In The War Prayer, Mark Twain has employed irony throughout his piece of work to conceal the actual meaning of the words. The author says “…in the spirit of love, of him who is the source of love…” (Twain). The reality of the written phrase differs from the perspective created among readers. This style of literature builds interest, creates tension, and sustains the reader’s interest. Additionally, irony helps readers gain insight into the characters’ personalities. In The War Prayer, Mark Twain successfully uses irony to draw out the flaws of the characters and show the difference between what they say and the expected actions making readers conceptualize the central ideas surrounding social vices. In the development of American literature, Mark Twain has significantly contributed to the continuous adoption of this technique to attract readers’ attention while moving the story forward and deepening understanding.


Imagery refers to the use of descriptive language to add depth to a literary work through the appeal to human senses. Mark Twain contributed to the use of imagery in American literature through a successful combination of words to create a vivid experience for readers through imaginations. In prayer to praise soldiers and pray for victory, Twain says that “…in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism…” to express the degree of patriotism expressed by Americans (Twain). As this concept of patriotism is relevant in American society, it has remained significantly important to the development of literature. Therefore, the use of the imagery in The War Prayer has influenced the continuous development and the adoption of imagery in American literature in generating a graphical presentation of scenes and enhancing readers’ understanding.


The use of satire in The War Prayer comprises irony, sarcasm, and ridicule. Satire effectively communicates the element of criticism of foolish behaviors exhibited by characters, their leaders, and society. The author uses satire in the written work to depict the hypocrisies of the church and religious leaders who preach love and mercy while supporting social vices such as war and destruction. As these social ideologies exist in every setup of society, they make the application of satire in literature work relevant. Therefore, in American literature, authors have adopted the use of satire as a technique to criticize and expose corrupt and foolish acts of individuals and society. Thus, authors of literary works in American literature have notably utilized this concept to improve humanity, bring attention to specific ideologies, and promote change.


In The War Prayer, the writer vividly uses humor in depicting the most important aspect of a failed social misconception. Twain uses humor to induce amusement and create a surprising occurrence of events. The use of humor in the context eases tension and creates a feeling of hope among readers. The author uses humor to demonstrate the surprising turn of events in human needs that depicts social hypocrisy and develops a platform of individual judgment on events. The use of humor in The War Prayer strengthens the comparative judging of events on the expected and the misdirected outcome. Despite the logical argument and the wisdom espoused, the failure to convince the patriotic citizens led to his description as a lunatic. Therefore, the skillful utilization of humor in this literature has boosted the continuous adoption of this technique by most American authors in providing a comic platform, driving sense, and improving the quality of their work.

Writing Style

The literary work of The War Prayer relates to tangible facts of American society and cultural history important in communicating critical social issues. The religious phrase “be thou near them” in the prayer (Twain) utilizes the American dialect to create a sense of familiarity and social connection to the public and the author. This writing style convinces and modifies people’s lives for it reflects publication, composition, critical views, and popular responses. The writing approach that focuses on the real issues of human existence makes the publication important in its contribution to the development of American literature as it encompasses the exact nature of issues that have perennially affected the society.


Mark Twain is one of the popular authors of all time and a critic of American discriminative leadership who has made a significant contribution to the development of literary work in academic history. Twain has contributed to the development of literature through his wits, appeal, knowledge, and rich social life. His expertise in literature breathes life to characters in the poem and gives personality through the choice of words and writing style. These writing skills focused on tangible facts affecting American people and society that has since made him relevant to American literary history. In The War Prayer, Mark Twain uses various elements of literature and literary styles adopted in contemporary writing practices to portray evil activities in the society. The elements communicate mood, beliefs, and realities that affect society using theme, tone, point of view, plot, and setting. On the contrary, literary styles such as satire, irony, humor, and imagery relay the picture and pillars of social unity. However, of importance is the author’s theme, which condemns and blames social policies and rules of governance for causing human suffering. The ability to adopt an explicit sense of space gives criticism and inspiration to the youth and leaders, and thus, shapes American literature.

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Works Cited

Pons, Margalida. “Mobility and Fusion in the Literary Field: The Maverick Poetry of Dolors Miquel.” Journal of Iberian and Latin American Studies, vol. 23, no. 1, 2017, pp. 21-43. Web.

Tarnoff, Ben. “The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature.” Journal of American History, vol. 102, no. 3, 2015, pp. 866-866. Web.

Twain, Mark. “The War Prayer.” War Prayer, Web.

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