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The War Prayer Commonlit Answers

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  • 11th Grade
  • Lexile: 1270

Source: The War Prayer by Mark Twain

Assessment Answers

QuestionAnswer
Part A: Which of the following statements best summarizes a theme of the text?Advocating for war not only means supporting the fight for peace and victory, but also supporting the death and destruction of one’s enemies.
PART B: Which TWO of the following quotes best support the answer to Part A?“‘When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory – must follow it, cannot help but follow it.'” (Paragraph 10)

“blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love” (Paragraph 11)
In the first paragraph, the author describes the country going to war. What does this description reveal about the citizens of this country?The citizens enthusiastically throw a parade to support the war, suggesting that patriotism blinds them to the horrors of war.
What effect does the author’s choice of resolution in the final paragraph have on the overall passage?The resolution has a cynical effect on the passage’s meaning, suggesting the cycle of war never ends because those who blindly support it cannot be reasoned with.

Identify the analogy in paragraph 9. How does this analogy contribute to the old man’s message?

The analogy in paragraph 9 can be found in the explanation the old man provides about the dual nature of prayers, particularly when he discusses praying for rain on one’s own crops, which might inadvertently cause harm to a neighbor’s crop that does not need rain.

This analogy illustrates the unintended consequences of prayers or wishes that, while beneficial to one party, can simultaneously cause harm to others.

This analogy contributes significantly to the old man’s message by clarifying the complexity and interconnectedness of desires and their impacts in a tangible, understandable way. It emphasizes that actions and prayers, especially those related to war, have far-reaching consequences beyond their immediate goals.

By likening the prayer for victory in war to praying for rain, the old man highlights how such prayers, though possibly made with a narrow focus on one’s own benefits or success, inevitably carry wider implications that can result in suffering and destruction for others.

This analogy deepens the audience’s understanding of the old man’s warning about the true cost of their prayers for victory. It encourages them to consider the broader, often devastating effects of their desires for triumph in war.

It serves to underscore the moral of the story: that every action, including prayer, has consequences that extend beyond the immediate, often in ways that are unseen or unconsidered by those who wish them.

Discussion Answers

What is the relationship between war and peace? Can one bring about the other? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.

The relationship between war and peace is complex and paradoxical. War is often justified as a means to achieve peace, under the premise that it can resolve underlying conflicts, secure resources, or establish conditions that are seen as necessary for peace.

However, war also brings about destruction, loss, and suffering, which can sow the seeds for future conflicts. The notion that one can bring about the other is deeply embedded in human history and thought, reflecting a cyclical understanding of human conflict and resolution.

In “The War Prayer” by Mark Twain, this paradox is poignantly illustrated. Twain presents a scenario where the fervent prayers for war victory, ostensibly prayers for peace and safety, carry with them the implicit wish for the suffering and destruction of the enemy.

The old man’s message serves as a stark reminder of the dual nature of such prayers: “When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory – must follow it, cannot help but follow it.”

This underscores the idea that the pursuit of peace through war is inherently contradictory, as achieving peace by inflicting violence on others perpetuates a cycle of suffering.

From personal experience and historical observation, it’s evident that while some wars have led to short-term peace or the resolution of specific conflicts, they often leave lasting scars on societies, economies, and environments, which can undermine long-term peace.

The aftermath of World War II, for example, saw the establishment of the United Nations and a renewed commitment to international cooperation, suggesting a moment where war led to a concerted effort for peace. Yet, the same conflict also sowed the seeds for the Cold War, demonstrating how peace achieved through war can be precarious.

Other literature and art have explored this paradox as well. For instance, Leo Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” delves into how individuals and societies navigate the turmoil of war and the quest for personal and collective peace, suggesting that true peace comes from understanding and reconciliation rather than victory in war.

Similarly, Picasso’s “Guernica” powerfully conveys the horrors of war, challenging the notion that war can be a legitimate means to peace by highlighting its human costs.

In history, the concept of “just war” has been debated extensively, with thinkers like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas arguing that war can be morally justified under certain conditions if it aims to restore peace.

However, the devastating consequences of wars in the 20th and 21st centuries, including the two World Wars, Vietnam War, and conflicts in the Middle East, have increasingly led to questions about whether war can ever truly bring about lasting peace.

While war and peace are often presented as opposites, with the former seen as a path to the latter, the reality is more complex. War’s destructive impact can undermine the very peace it seeks to achieve, suggesting that alternatives to conflict, such as diplomacy, dialogue, and reconciliation, are essential for genuine peace.

The evidence from “The War Prayer,” historical events, and other cultural works supports the view that peace achieved through war is fraught with moral and practical dilemmas, highlighting the need for more profound reflections on how societies pursue peace.


How are we changed by war? How does war affect people? Cite evidence from this text, your own experience, and other literature, art, or history in your answer.

War fundamentally alters individuals, communities, and societies, often impacting the human psyche, social structures, and the environment. This transformation can manifest in various ways, ranging from the psychological scars borne by combatants and civilians to the reshaping of national identities and global relations.

In “The War Prayer” by Mark Twain, the impact of war on people is implied through the depiction of patriotic fervor and the unexamined consequences of war. The story highlights how individuals can be swept up in the collective enthusiasm for war, without fully grappling with the implications of their wishes for victory.

The arrival of the stranger and his message serves as a stark reminder of the suffering and destruction that war brings to both sides, suggesting that war changes people by confronting them with the harsh realities of their desires and the moral consequences of conflict.

From personal experiences and narratives of veterans, it’s clear that war leaves indelible marks on those who participate in it. Many return with physical injuries, while almost all are affected psychologically, carrying the burden of what they have seen and done.

Conditions such as PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) are common among veterans, reflecting the deep psychological impact of war.

Literature, art, and history are replete with examples of how war changes people. Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell to Arms” and Tim O’Brien’s “The Things They Carried” provide insight into the psychological toll of war on soldiers, highlighting themes of alienation, the loss of innocence, and the struggle to find meaning in the chaos of war.

Similarly, the poetry of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon from World War I starkly conveys the horrors of war and its effect on the human spirit.

Artistically, works like Picasso’s “Guernica” capture the devastation of war on civilians, illustrating the suffering and chaos inflicted on innocent people. Such works serve as powerful reminders of the human cost of conflict, challenging viewers to consider the broader impacts of war beyond the battlefield.

Historically, the effects of war on societies are profound, reshaping national boundaries, economies, and cultures. The aftermath of wars often leads to significant social and political changes, as seen in the revolutions that followed World War I in Russia, Germany, and elsewhere.

The reconstruction period after World War II also illustrates how war can lead to efforts to rebuild and renew societies, though the scars of conflict remain.

The war experience can also lead to a heightened awareness of the preciousness of peace and the value of human life. Survivors of war and conflict zones often emerge with a deep commitment to peacebuilding and reconciliation, reflecting a desire to prevent future generations from experiencing similar suffering.

In conclusion, war changes us by exposing the darkest aspects of human nature and the profound costs of conflict. It affects individuals by leaving physical and psychological scars, alters societies by reshaping social and political orders, and impacts cultures through the narratives and memories that survivors and observers pass down.

The evidence from “The War Prayer,” personal experiences, and cultural representations of war underscores the transformative, often devastating, impact of war on humanity, highlighting the urgent need for understanding, healing, and efforts toward lasting peace.

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