Respected novelist Mark Twain delves into the topic of imperialism and the consequences that follow. In order to accomplish this, Twain utilizes the stark differences between the priest and a mysterious stranger. The two represent those who are pro-imperialism and those who are anti-imperialism. Twain's writing makes it clear for those reading that through praying for success in a war, you're also praying for the enemy nation to be eradicated. Through the War Prayer, Twain reveals just how brutal imperialism can be by implementing irony, useful word choice, and a compelling closing sentence. .
Irony is a defining rhetoric used to convey the theme, as the ending half of the essay takes place in a church. The prayers of the town members mention "a desire to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded," with the wounded likely belonging to the enemy country. In the very place that supposedly teaches righteousness and loving of thy neighbor, these men and women pray for their god to have no mercy on the other side. The irony provokes the reader to question why the people are praying for destruction under the guise of praying for success. The setting of the essay is efficient in displaying both the horrors of imperialism, as well as the irony of praying for destruction in a place of love and acceptance.
The word choice employed by Twain in the War Prayer creates and maintains a very potent argument. The soldiers are immortalized as "bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory," and the war itself as "a glad and gracious time." This particular way of describing the war is distinctly imperialistic. Later we see those whom are against imperialism described in much less flattering words including "half a 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.