An Experiment in Misery

by Stephen Crane
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Why is the character called "the youth" in the story "An Experiment in Misery"?

In the story "An Experiment in Misery," the main character may be called "the youth" because he is physically young and inexperienced in living among the poor and because not specifically naming the protagonist makes it easier for readers to identify with him.

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In the short story "An Experiment in Misery" by Stephen Crane , a person identified only as "the youth" or "the young man" wanders among some of the poorest inhabitants of New York City. He eats free soup at a saloon, sleeps on a cot in a crowded...

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In the short story "An Experiment in Misery" by Stephen Crane, a person identified only as "the youth" or "the young man" wanders among some of the poorest inhabitants of New York City. He eats free soup at a saloon, sleeps on a cot in a crowded dormitory, has breakfast at a cheap basement restaurant, and sits on a bench in a public park.

The odd thing about the protagonist is that though he is dressed in rags and is almost broke, this world of the poor seems to be new to him. The sights, sounds, and smells are unfamiliar and startling. Unlike most of the filthy denizens, the protagonist appears to be entering this stratum of society by choice. The title, "An Experiment in Misery," suggests that the protagonist may be doing this as an educational experience.

There are several reasons why Crane may have called the protagonist of this story "the youth" instead of giving him a name. Firstly, the meaning can be taken literally. The protagonist is physically younger than the other characters that Crane describes in the story.

Secondly, the protagonist's youth can refer to his inexperience in the world of the poor. As mentioned above, in some ways, he seems to be unfamiliar with this dirty and needy stratum of society, so he is a youth as far as experience is concerned.

Additionally, using a generic term like "the youth" instead of giving the protagonist a particular name gives the story the significance of a parable. The protagonist can be anybody, and it is easy for readers to more easily identify with the poverty-stricken young person.

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