Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Crane’s writing is often appreciated for its brevity, spareness, and attention to realistic detail. In “The Upturned Face” the reader may note all these elements. The story is one of Crane’s final, and finest, efforts. What is particularly notable about “The Upturned Face” is the vivid nature of the scene created in just fifteen hundred words. For example, the reader senses that bullets are whizzing by as a continual threat, but Crane only once mentions that they “snap” overhead, bullets are “spitting” overhead, and, at the opening, that bullets are cracking near their ears. The crisp effectiveness of these concise images forces the reader not only to perceive a tangible danger, but also to consider the importance of anything that requires enduring such a risk. Why is this so important to Lean and the adjutant?

Crane depicts death realistically, often describing wounds in bloody detail, or the odd positioning of a dead person’s limbs, perhaps emphasizing a certain revulsion to death, perhaps reflecting the realistically alien nature of the state. In this story, however, Lean’s and the adjutant’s sense of horror is expressed through the spare, yet focused image of the “chalk-blue” upturned face of their comrade. The reality is made into something alien and horrible not by its unnaturalness, but by its terrible immediacy.

The tension between the lieutenant and the adjutant, as well as the tension of each toward the dead man, skillfully builds from their initial debate over...

(The entire section is 623 words.)


(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

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