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    Stephen Crane

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    Stephen Crane

    American novelist, short story writer, poet and journalist
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    Biography

    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. More ...

    Books by Stephen Crane

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    Biography of Stephen Crane

    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." Following the conventions of a bildungsroman, Henry has matured after the final battle and he understands better his strengths and weaknesses.

    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. In the story, originally published in Scribner's Magazine in June 1897, Crane focused on four men, who eventually decide to swim for shore.

    -- When it occurs to a man that nature does not regard him as important, and that she feels she would not maim the universe by disposing of him, he at first wishes to throw bricks at the temple, and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples. Any visible expression of nature would surely be pelleted with his jeers.
    -- Then, if there be no tangible thing to hoot at he feels, perhaps, the desire to confront a personification and indulge in pleas, bowed to one knee, and with hands supplicant, saying: 'Yes, but I love myself.'

    (from 'The Open Boat')

    In Greece Crane wrote about the Greco-Turkish War, settling in 1898 in Sussex, England, where he lived with the author Cora Taylor, who was the proprietress of the Hotel de Dream, a well-known Jacksonville sporting house. In England Crane became friends with Joseph Conrad, H.G. Wells, and Henry James. 'The Blue Hotel' (1898), Crane's much anthologized short story, was first published serially in Collier's Weekly. Swede, a nervous New Yorker, fascinated by tales of the Wild West, enters Pat Scully's hotel in Fort Romper, Nebraska; the hotel is a haven of rest in a blizzard. Swede meets Mr. Blanc from the East, and a reserved cowboy. He drinks heavily and beats Scully's son, Johnnie, after accusing him of cheating at cards. When the Swede attacks another hotel customer, he is stabbed and killed. Several months later Mr. Blanc, feeling responsible for the death, confesses that Johnnie indeed cheated. In a letter from 1898 Conrad wrote to Crane: "You have the terseness, the clear eye the easy imagination. You have all - and I have only the accursed faculty of dreaming. My ideas fade -Yours come out sharp cut as cameos - they come all living out of Your brain and bring images - and bring light." Like Emile Zola (1840-1902) in France, Crane used realism - or naturalism - as a method of exposing social ills, as in GEORGE'S MOTHER (1896), which explored life in the Bowery. Crane himself did not much like Zola. In 1899 ACTIVE SERVICE appeared, which was based on the Greco-Turkish War.

    In 1899 Crane returned to Cuba, to cover the Spanish-American War. Due to poor health he was obliged to return to England. There he rented with Cora a cold and wet 14th-century Sussex estate, called Brede Place. Crane died on June 5, 1900 at Badenweiler in Germany of tuberculosis, that was worsened by malarial fever he had caught in Cuba. He was 28-his career has lasted only eight years. Crane's posthumous publications include the sketches and stories from his life as a correspondent in WOUNDS IN THE RAIN (1900) and WHILOMVILLE STORIES (1900), depicting a childhood in a small state. After Crane's death his work was neglected for many years until such writers as Amy Lowell and Willa Cather brought it again to public attention. Although Crane introduced realism into American literature, his use of symbolism also gave his work a romantic quality.

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