Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane

American novelist, short story writer, and poet Stephen Crane was born November 1st, 1871; six years after the American Civil War had ended. Yet his fame and fortune were interwoven with that war. Though he never fought in battle himself, he created stories about the battlefield that were so realistic that veterans reading his work thirty years after the war had ended praised it for its realism and ability to capture the true feelings and images of combat.

His best known novel is, of course, The Red Badge of Courage (1895); an impressionistic novel about Henry Fleming, a soldier participating in the Civil War who experiences and struggles with cowardice and bravery on the field of battle. The title itself is born from his longing for a battle wound, a "red badge of courage", to help conceal his cowardice after he fled from a battle while overcome with fear. The Red Badge of Courage has become one of the mostly widely read and influential war stories of all time. It also brought Crane international fame and modest wealth.

Crane is less well known for his short stories, poems, and essays but the modern reader will discover that he produced excellent work beyond his widely known novel. A Dark Brown Dog is a superlative effort and well-known to short enthusiasts. For students and teachers, we offer a helpful Study Guide. You will find other great stories listed on this page, including An Experiment in Misery and his "uknown sequel" to The Red Badge of Courage, The Veteran, and In the Depths of a Coal Mine. Crane's first book, Maggie, A Girl of the Streets, was about an innocent slum girl and how she fell into the world of prostitution. Quite scandalous for the times, Crane published this work under the pseudonym "Johnson Smith" in 1893 at his own expense.

After his success with The Red Badge of Courage, Crane focused on ideas of war. In 1897 he went to Cuba as a journalist to report on the rebellion against the Spanish, but on the way he was shipwrecked and reported as dead. Actually, he had rowed towards land with three other men in a dinghy but was forced to swim to shore losing all his money on the way. Recounting the incident resulted in his most famous short story, The Open Boat, published in 1897. That same year, Crane published his third novel, The Third Violet.

Back to being a war reporter, Crane went to Greece to report on the Greco-Turkish War for several New York newspapers, but rumors of his life turning to drug addiction, rampant promiscuity, even satanism -- all of which were untrue -- prompted him to move to England.

Crane published his poetry in 1899, War Is Kind, and a book of short stories, The Monster and Other Stories. He wrote a war novel based on his experiences in Greece, called Active Service. Crane continued to write prolifically until his life was cut short, a victim of tuberculosis at the age of 28. He died in sanitorium in Germany's Black Fores on June 5, 1900.

Visit American Literature's American History, Civil War Stories, and the African American Library for other important historical documents and figures which helped shape America.

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