For one to fully understand what an author writes, the reader must first examine
the author himself. To do this, one must consider the author’s early years, education,
interests, experiences, etc. Stephen Crane, an American author, is no exception.
Stephen Crane, the author of The Red Badge of Courage, did not have the best of
childhood’s. Being the yo7ungest of 14 children, Crane was born on November 1, 1871.
His father, a Methodist minister, died when Crane was nine, leaving his mother no choice
but to move. Stephen moved three times when he was a child in the New York area
(online service: www.en.utexas.edu).
Crane was a very intelligent man, although he didn’t show it as a student. In fact,
in Cliffs Notes on Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, it was stated that “crane was more
interested in learning unusual words, especially swear words, drinking beer, and playing
poker and baseball”(5). Crane attended several schools, two of which he flunked out of.
After deciding that school wasn’t his best choice, Crane moved to New York City,
where he worked for a business office for a short time. He quickly quit and began
reporting for two city newspapers. Crane’s brother Townley saw his talents in writing
and landed him a job on the Tribune.
Stephen Crane then put out his first significant piece of writing, Maggie: A Girl of
the Streets (1893). This book was rejected by all publishers and had to be privately
printed. One year later, Crane finished his new novel, The Red Badge of Courage, which
wasn’t published in book form until 1895. This would prove to be Stephen’s most
famous piece of literature.
After knowing about the author, the reader must not merely read the literature, but
read into it. Focusing on Crane’s most famous novel, one should be able to recognize
themes literary techniques and general issues that Crane uses.
The Red Badge of Courage is a novel based on a real battle in the Civil War.
Many critics agree with George Wyndam when he noted in his 1896 essay, “ Mr. Stephen
Crane, the author of The Red Badge of Courage…, is a great artist with something new to
say, and consequently, with a new way of saying it” (TCLC 121), and , “… in The Red
Badge of Courage Mr. Crane has surely contrived a masterpiece” (121).
It is to be thought that Crane has succeeded in his goals, for in one of his letters he
stated, “And my chiefest desire was to write plainly and unmistakably, so that all men
(and some woman) might read and understand. That to my mind is good writing” (TCLC
123). Few men can prove a statement of Crane’s writing not being good.
Crane’s best and most noticeable trait is his ability to put the reader in the scene.
His descriptions are so in-depth, that Crane leaves little room for one to use their own
imagination in creating a setting.
Crane has found a way to describe details without giving a lot of general
information. This can be seen in the main character of The Red Badge of Courage for
Crane lets the reader feel as though he knows him well, without even using his name.
After taking into consideration all of this information the reader should have a
better understanding of Stephen Crane and his works. Stephen Crane was a brilliant
author, and without him and his works there would be a great gap in American literature.