Badge of Courage

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Stephen Crane loved war. His most famous novel is, of course, THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE (1895), written by a very young man who had never seen battle. He had learned all he needed to know, he claimed, from playing football, which is characteristic of a man who saw most human interaction in terms of war. He titled one collection of his poems—or “lines” as he modestly termed them—WAR IS KIND (1899). He seemed to prefer it to most other pursuits, spending as much of his last years as he could in the heat of battle, ostensibly as a correspondent.

Biographer Linda H. Davis never really attempts to explain this obsession. It may have something to do with the early death of his father or perhaps he was just the perpetual adolescent who died too young to ever take his mortality seriously. Born in 1871, he was dead before he was thirty.

He came from a well-educated middle class family. His older brother was a newspaperman and got Stephen into that game. He wrote some very good journalism, but he wanted to understand people more than cover the news, and he bounced around among papers, unable to satisfy any editor for very long.

Though he was a preacher’s son, he never had much use for the so-called proprieties and became famous and infamous for his supposedly libertine ways. He lived in abject poverty while gathering material for his first novel, MAGGIE: A GIRL OF THE STREETS (1893), and kept some dubious company. However most of...

(The entire section is 474 words.)