Steven Crane's Role in the Literary Revolution and an Analysis of The Red Badge of Courage

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If it takes a revolutionary to topple the general way of thinking, Stephen Crane is that revolutionary for American literature. The dominant literary movement before Crane’s time, Romanticism, originated in Germany and England as a response to classicism and soon dispersed worldwide. (McKay 766). Romanticism stressed the power of the human conscience and the intensity of emotion. It was essentially a spiritual movement, fiercely conflicting with the rigid rules and standards of classicism and the restraint of the Enlightenment. The belief that all humans embodied a unique greatness was widespread. Further along in history, however, came a man who sought to destroy this confident idea from his despondent circumstances. Disenchanted by the strict upbringing of his religious family and eager to attack the traditional Romantic Movement, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage utilizes universal literary philosophies to dismantle the traditional confidence in human morality.

Born into a pious, conservative family with a Methodist minister and the daughter of a clergyman as parents, it is no wonder that Crane would turn away from the religious orthodoxy of his household and the conventional norms of his time (Szumski 13). Understanding his childhood and upbringing is vital to grasp why Crane would create a work of literature so contradictory with others of its time. Crane’s mother was an active participant of the temperance movement and president of two chapters of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (Szumski 13). She also contributed reports on religious events in the community (Szumski 13). Crane’s father held an important position in the Methodist Church; he later lost it as a result of rebelling and denouncing Methodism’s emb...

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...s attempt to justify himself using the so-called “enlightened” individualist principles turns into an instance of narcissistic self-pity (Crane 49). This attempt contrasts with how there is “natural goodness in man,” as Fleming’s ego is inflated (Campbell, American Romanticism).

The onset of the twentieth century was without a doubt a period of change. New ideas spread across the world, shaking long-established beliefs that comfortably rested in traditionalists’ minds. Stephen Crane was a radical pioneer in the field of intellectualism and literature; he sought to inform the world of his thoughts on the Romantic Movement from his own life experiences. This literary revolution does not end with Crane’s death, however. Crane’s revolt against accepted beliefs represents the strong-willed courage that he encourages his readers to use to define their own place in life.

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