An Analysis of the Attitudes towards War in William Dean Howells' Editha

Categories: Editha

When talking about war, different people have different visions. Some people support that war is a way to peace while others hold a totally opposite opinion—- war is the ruin of peace.

In William Dean Howells’ Editha, he wrote two kinds of totally different attitudes towards war. George, the fiancé of Editha hold a view that war breaks the peace of the world. On the contrary, Editha regarded war as an honor and do not believe there is a peace in the world.

What’s more, she believed that a man should do something worthy to win her and a man should go to a war to prove he loves his own country. However, I totally disagree with her.

Firstly, peace is in ruin once it runs to a war. War separates family and a country, paying a heavy cost that no one can afford. Secondly, in love, man can do something worthy to win a woman but not join a war.

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This is not a game which people can get rewards once they win. It is a war, a war that many people lose their lives in it and many family lose their loved one.

Thirdly, there are a lot of ways to prove a man love his country but not a war. In a word, Editha had a different attitude to war from me.

At the beginning of the story, Editha decided that she could not let George stay. She kissed George intensely and tell how she think of the war, “She kissed him back intensely and irrelevantly, as to their passion, and uttered from deep in her throat, ‘How glorious!”” (cite from Pg 125).

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Through the whole story, the reasons why Editha think war is glorious are as following. First of all, she read about the war on newspaper. “ “That ignoble peace! It was no peace at all, with that crime and shame at our very gates.” She was conscious of parroting the current phrases of the newspaper.” (cite from Pg 126). During the late 19th century, yellow journalism, the style of sensationalist, contributed to arousing people’s anger to the sinking of Maine. The style emphasized sensationalism over the fact so people have a wrong attitude towards the war. Editha must be one of the people who believed in the press. Secondly, she thought there is no peace in the world. In the story, she said, “That ignoble peace! It was no peace at all, with that crime and shame at our very gates.”(cite from Pg 126). Thirdly, she think God is on her side. She said, “Because God meant it to be war.” (cite from Pg 127). However, I do not consider war is a glorious matter. War destroys family and countries.

When facing a war, we should have a clear sight to view the whole event. Unfortunately, Editha did not have a condition to have a clear sight towards war. I am in a peaceful era so I do not know whether I would believe the news if I were in the war period. Within 1958-1960, the Great Leap Forward Movement in China, had a sensational journalism as well, which brought a huge impact in that period. There was a saying at that time, “the more bold we are, the more crops we can grow.” (cite from People’s Daily, 274, August, 1958, Xirui Liu wrote. ). I imagine I was in that period, maybe I would be as same as Editha, to believe this sensational journalism because there was a few people receive education. Maybe I would be a non-educated person and believe what was said on the newspaper. So on this point, Editha should not be blame and this may be the same part between us. However, she thought there is no peace in the world. I do believe there is peace in the world so I do not consider war as a glorious matter. What’s more, Editha held a point that God is on her side. As for me, I do not have a religion so I do not believe in God too. Even considering war from a point of view of a person who believes in God, I do not think God would support the war. From their point of view, God is always mercy and be of omnibenevolence (perfect goodness) so He would not support a war. This is why I do not think war is an honor which differs from Editha.

When it comes to the attitude towards love, Editha had a view that man should do something worthy to win her. “But now, it flashed upon her, if he could do something worthy to have won her – be a hero, her hero – it would be even better than if he had done it before asking her…” (cite from Pg 126). Editha hoped that a man can go to a war to prove how he strong is, so she could attracted more by him. On this point of view, I disagree with her. Man can do something worthy to prove he is strong enough to protect a woman or show how he loves her but not a war. What’s more, two things attract me the most are the man who I love focuses on a job and continue to do it better and better, the other one is he is a family centered man. He does not need to do something great to win me but stands beside me when I need help.

In the letter Editha wrote to George, she held a point of view that a man should go to war to prove he loves his country. She wrote, “But the man I marry must love his country first of all, and be able to say to me, ‘I could not love thee, dear, so much, Loved I not honor more.’ There is no honor above America with me. In this great hour there is no other honor.” (cite from Pg 128). It seems that Editha loves her country so much but I do not think she really know how to love her country. What she had seen was the honor that the war would give but she ignore the people in her country. She didn’t take it into consideration that a war would kill the people who are innocent in the country. She didn’t consider a war would bring a huge waste of cost. She didn’t even consider that a war would take her homeland into a ruin. I hold an opposite opinion which is people can show their love to their country in a different way, a peaceful way, a way that would not pay a huge cost.

In conclusion, some people, like Editha, think they love their country so they think taking part in a war is a behavior to show how much they love their country. Unfortunately, they don’t see the opposite side of war. War will bring a country into peace but at the same time it can destroy a country. Stay away from war to protect our family and our country.


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An Analysis of the Attitudes towards War in William Dean Howells' Editha. (2022, Apr 08). Retrieved from

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