Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Short but Influential Life of Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)
On June 5, 1900, famous american writer Stephen Crane died at age 28. Despite of his youth, he already had become one of the icons of american literature. Most famous is his american civil war novel 'The Red Badge of Courage', which has been read by almost every american high school kid. Crane was one of America's foremost realistic writers, and his works have been credited with marking the beginning of modern American Naturalism. 'The Red Badge of Courage' written in 1895 is a classic of american literature that realistically depicts the psychological complexities of fear and courage on the battlefield. People believed Crane to be a war veteran, but he never saw a battlefield by that time. He was just a 23 year old college dropout. Crane claimed that his source for the accurate descriptions of combat was the football field. When he finally experienced battle as a war correspondent, he said of the novel, "It was all right."

In 1900 at age 28, Crane's health had rapidly deteriorated due to general disregard for his physical well-being. Finally, after several respiratory attacks, he died of tuberculosis. Crane is not only known for his naturalistic and almost impressionistic novels and short stories, but also for his poetry. Here is one of his poems that really made a powerful impression on me:
In the desert


In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;


“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”

At yovisto, you might watch a short documentary on Stephen Crane or directly join the lecture on American Literature from Missouri State University about his life and his literary work.


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