Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” Excites 21st-Century Artists & Activists


In the recently published 2017 issue of Mark Twain AnnualSusan L. Eastman of University of Tennessee – Chattanooga discusses the distinctly contemporary resonances of a short story, “The War Prayer,” which was not published until thirteen years after the death of its author. Twain’s incisive posthumous indictment of imperial militarism, as Eastman puts it, “buoys the anti-war movement in the twenty-first century,” having been adapted and analyzed “in media beyond Twain’s imagination.”

Though it’s never wise to doubt the limits of Twain’s imagination, particularly when it comes to mass media technology, Eastman does show an increasingly vibrant discussion and appreciation of “The War Prayer” on digital, social, and visual media platforms in the 21st century. At the center of her article are extended exegeses of two short films which have been central to increasing public familiarity with Twain’s story. These films, embedded below, supplement Eastman’s excellent essay. They are also terrific teaching tools, particularly Markos Kounalakis’s 2006 animated short, which pairs narration of the story with a visual and aural atmosphere appropriate for Halloween weekend.