American Lit Final 1 Essays

Submitted By adrianneonofrei
Words: 691
Pages: 3

Champions of Morality Armed conflict has and will always be a double-edged sword. On one end, war can fight evil and establish good, virtuous, nations, however, it almost always simultaneously generates enormous pain and suffering. This duality of war has created much controversy especially over the last several decades as modern warfare has taken a serious toll on human life. People have risen in protest of war’s catastrophic effects in a variety of ways including literature. Mark Twain’s “War Prayer” and e.e. cumming’s “[I sing of Olaf glad and big]” both express antiwar sentiments through their characters and expose the hypocrisy found in what many Americans would consider to be trustworthy and honorable institutions. As Twain mentions early on in his piece, those who openly disapproved of the war at hand, “got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake quickly shrank out of sight” (1399). Twain’s comment might leave his readers wondering about where these people went, what happened to them, and that is exactly where e.e. cumming’s piece fills in the empty space. Olaf, “a conscientious object-or” (1899), was brutally dealt with by the military and government because of his strong antiwar stance. From cumming’s poem and Twain’s statement, one could easily deduce that open disapprovement of a nations military endeavors is not acceptable. Like the cheering crowd of, “proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts” (1399) in “War Prayer” people were and are expected to blindly partake in war festivities and Olaf stands as a warning for what happens when one fails to do so. Despite the merciless torture he experienced, Olaf held his moral ground and, together with Twain’s old godly messenger, demonstrates strength and righteousness. Although the characters situations differ considerably, both are voices of reason and power. Despite their “against the grain” positions, Olaf and the messenger seem more morally sound than those who uphold the dominant beliefs about war and violence. The “aged stranger” who entered a church full of fiercely patriotic soldiers and citizens was the only one who could fairly recognize the ethical problem of calling upon the “God of battles” to destroy “thy neighbor”. Although he is ultimately rejected by his audience, the ghost like elder radiates confidence as he demands the attention of the church and thus presents himself as the powerful messenger God sent him to be. Olaf stands as a pillar virtue as he is treated violently for his belief in nonviolence but unlike Twain’s character, is physically powerless. He could not command a room full of people even if he tried as has been abused in the most mutilating of ways and lacks even