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Stephen Crane Biography
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Stephen Crane
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Stephen Crane (1871-1900) was born in Newark, New Jersey, as the 14th child of a Methodist minister. His mother was active in the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, and published fiction. Crane started to write stories at the age of eight and at 16 he was writing articles for the New York Tribune. Both of his parents did some writing and two of his brothers became newspapermen. Crane studied at Lafayette College and Syracuse University. After his mother's death in 1890 - his father had died earlier - Crane moved to New York. He worked as a free-lance writer and journalist for the Bachellor-Johnson newspaper syndicate. While supporting himself by his writings, he lived among the poor in the Bowery slums to research his first novel, Maggie. Crane's faithfulness to accuracy of details led him once to dress up as a tramp and spend the night in a flophouse. This produced the sketch 'Experiment in Misery' in 1894. Crane's work also inspired other writers, such as Hutchins Hapgood (1869-1944), to examine the Lower East Side.

Crane's unromanticized war novel The Red Badge of Courage depicted the American Civil War from the point of view of an ordinary soldier. It has been called the first modern war novel. In England readers believed that the book was written by a veteran soldier - the text was so believable. Crane dismissed this theory by saying that he got his ideas from the football field. The story is set during the American Civil War. Henry Fleming enrolls as a soldier in the Union army. He has dreamed of battles and glory all his life, but his expectations are shattered in his encounter with the enemy when he witnesses the chaos on the battle field and starts to fear that the regiment was leaving him behind. He flees from the battle. "Since he had turned his back upon the fight his fears had been wondrously magnified. Death about to thrust him between the shoulder blades was far more dreadful than death about to smite him between the eyes. When he thought of it later, he conceived the impression that it is better to view the appalling than to be merely within hearing. The noises of the battle were like stones; he believed himself liable to be crushed."

Henry wanders into a thick wood, and meets a group of wounded men. He tries to help a tall soldier who dies but leaves a tattered soldier on a field. He returns to the lines and a deserter hits him with a gun. Henry gets a head wound. Marked by the 'red badge' in the evening he falls asleep with his comrades. Next day he feels sore and stiff from his experiences, but in his hatred starts to shoot blindly at the enemy. "Some of the men muttered and looked, awe struck, at the youth. It was plain that as he had gone on loading and firing and cursing without the proper intermission, they had found time to regard him. And they now looked upon him as a war devil." In the heat of the battle, he picks up the regiment's flag with his friend when it falls from the color sergeant's hands. An officer, who has called him and the other soldiers "mule drivers" calls them again "a lot of mud diggers". Henry wants to die in the battle to prove the officer is wrong. He tries to seize the enemy flag, but his friend is faster and wrenches it free from the hands of the dying color bearer. He is filled with guilt when he remembers the tattered soldier whom he had deserted. Henry suspects that his comrades can read his thoughts. "Yet the youth smiled, for he saw that the world was a world for him, though many discovered it to be made of oaths and walking sticks. He had rid himself of the red sickness of battle. The sultry nightmare was in the past. He had been an animal blistered and sweating in the heat and pain of war. He turned now with a lover's thirst to images of tranquil skies, fresh meadows, cool brooks -- an existence of soft and eternal peace."

Crane's collection of poems, THE BLACK RIDER, which appeared also in 1895, has much in common with Emily Dickinson's simple, stripped style. Crane's rising fame brought him better reporting assignments and he sought experiences as a war correspondent in combat areas. Crane travelled to Greece, Cuba, Texas and Mexico, reporting mostly on war events. His short story, 'The Open Boat,' is based on a true experience, when his ship, a coal-burning tug heavy with ammunition and machetes, sank on the journey to Cuba in 1896. With a small party of other passengers, Crane spent several days drifting in an open boat before being rescued. This experience impaired his health permanently.


Biography from: ReadPrint.com
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