Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Crane has been hailed as America’s first modern writer, whose tough-minded realism and symbolic impressionism broadened the parameters of twentieth century fiction. His literary career resembled the passing of a comet, brief but brilliant. His first important work, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893), had a motif similar to that of “An Experiment in Misery.” Despite its lack of commercial success, Crane began work on The Red Badge of Courage: An Episode of the American Civil War (1895), which would bring him international acclaim. The previous year, however, at the time he wrote “An Experiment in Misery,” he was a struggling journalist trying to persuade editors to publish his work. The country was in the midst of a depression, and Crane himself was frequently without funds. For the sake of research he even stayed in a flophouse and stood in breadlines; the latter experience inspired an article called “Men in the Storm.”

“An Experiment in Misery,” like others of Crane’s tales of Bowery life, uses an impressionistic style to depict a milieu that is hostile and incomprehensible. The story was first published in the New York Press with an explanatory introduction and conclusion that Crane later deleted when it was published in The Open Boat, and Other Tales of Adventure (1898). In the original introduction, the youth tells an older friend that he wants to discover the point of view of the tramp by...

(The entire section is 520 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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