stephen crane

stephen crane

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Stephen Crane was a forerunner of the realistic writers in America after the civil war. His style included the use of impressionism, symbolism, and irony which helped credit him with starting the beginning of modern American Naturalism. Crane’s most famous writing is his war novel The Red Badge of Courage. He is also known for the novel Maggie: A Girl of the Streets and short stories such as “The Open Boat” or “The Blue Hotel.” “Crane utilized his keen observations, as well as personal experiences, to achieve a narrative vividness and sense of immediacy matched by few American writers before him (5). His unique style did not always follow a plot structure and focused on mental drama as well as external.
Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey on November 1st of 1871. He was the youngest of fourteen children. His father was Reverend Jonathan Crane, a Methodist minister, and his mother Mary Crane was active in church reform. His uncle Jesse Peck was a Methodist bishop and the president of Syracuse University. Even with this religious influence Crane enjoyed playing cards, dancing, drinking, and smoking. “Crane shunned organized religion but did not reject so much as humanistically redefine God and religious experience” (14). In 1880 his father passed away and the family moved to Asbury Park, New Jersey. That is where Crane began his higher education at Claverack College and the Hudson River Institute. He began to develop an interest in Civil War studies and military training. Crane then went to Lafayette College for a semester followed by Syracuse University for another semester. To earn money he worked as a freelance writer for his brothers who worked at the New York Tribune. He spent most of his college time playing baseball and studying the humanity of people rather than school work. Before leaving college Crane wrote the foundation for his first novel Maggie.
Working part time for the New York Tribune Crane gained first-hand knowledge of poverty during this time. He studied city life in the slums of New York and was able to realistically portray this in his writings. During this time he finished the novel Maggie: A Girl of the Streets which was about a young women’s descent into prostitution. The story was rejected by numerous editors as the felt it was too cruel and honest and would shock readers. Eventually he borrowed the money and had it printed under the alias Johnston Smith in 1893.

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The book was not a success because it was brutally honest which at that time was unpopular. It was not until 1896 when he revised the book that it was widely accepted. “Critics suggest that the novel was a major development in American literary Naturalism and that it introduced Crane’s vision of life as warfare: influenced by the Darwinism of the times” (5).
During the years of 1893 and 1894 Crane worked on his most famous novel The Red Badge of Courage along with a collection of poems called The Black Riders. The novel was published in 1895 and did not receive initial praise or attention. Soon it was discovered and then it became an international success. Overnight he went from a penniless journalist to a worldwide celebrity. “Pulled in all directions by his celebrity status, his ambition, and his youth, Crane struggled with scandal; with several passionate, and overlapping, romantic attachments; with malicious rumors that he was a drug addict and a Satanist; and, always, with money” (146). Since Crane lacked actual experience in war, he used his obsession with war and applied all of his knowledge into his novel. The novel has no plot but instead is a series of episodes in which a young soldier encounters. Even though the novel put him among the top writers during his time Crane could not dodge the criticism that he had never experienced war.
Crane then returned to journalism and traveled to Mexico and the American West as a news syndicate. These experiences he would use as a source of further fiction stories such as “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” and “The Blue Hotel”. He then returned to New York and in 1897 fell in love with a woman named Cora Taylor who was the proprietor of the Hotel de Dream. The couple then moved to England were he became friends with Joseph Conrad, H. G. Wells, and Henry James. To escape financial dept Crane left to take a job with the New York World to report on the Spanish-American War. These experiences helped him write other fiction stories like “The Open Boat” which describes his battle for thirty hours at see after being shipwrecked off the coast of Florida. By 1899 he was suffering from tuberculosis and returned to England. To earn money and satisfy his artistic needs he continued to write. He wrote Active Service which is based on his experiences as a war correspondent in the Greco-Turkish War. On June 5, 1900 in Germany, Crane died at the young age of twenty-eight.
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