Stephen Crane Short Fiction Analysis
Perhaps because his writing career was so short, critics have devoted much space to Stephen Crane’s slight, decidedly apprentice series of sketches collectively entitled The Sullivan County Tales. One trait that the sketches do have in their favor is that they contain all the facets of style and theme that Crane was to utilize as his writing developed. The reader finds the overbearing power of the environment, the vivid descriptions, the premise that these descriptions reflect the heightened consciousness of a character or characters, and the idea that this very heightening involves a distortion of perception that needs to be overcome for the characters’ adequate adjustment to, and comprehension of, reality. Also of significance is that these stories are generally concerned with the actions of four campers and hence reflect not only on individual psychology but also on the psychology of group dynamics. This was also to become a focus of Crane’s writing.
“Four Men in a Cave”
In one of the better pieces from this series, “Four Men in a Cave,” a quartet of campers decides to explore a cave in order to have something to brag about when they return to the city. Their scarcely concealed fears about the expedition are rendered by Crane’s enlivening of stalactites that jab down at them and stalagmites that shoot up at them from crevices. At the end of their path, they find a hermit who invites them to a game of poker,...
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