Stephen Crane was an American writer and journalists who depicted truth of life and hardship faced by his generation. His unique talent and writing style was ‘coined’ by life experiences and emotional feelings, his education and background, social class and family values. Thesis Literary heritage of Stephen Crane reflects his life experience and personal philosophy used as a moral guide and code of honesty.
Carne was born in a family of Methodist minister. These family values and traditions had a great impact on his works and themes, ethics and interpretation of good and evil. He spent his childhood in New York. Similar to other writers, he used a theme of poverty and class conflict to unveil casualties of life and hardship faced by young people. Some of his works are organized on the moral distinction between the worthy and the unworthy poor. Characters are dressed up in exotic clothing, vernaculars, and customs, but these distinctive colors and actions were accessories that had little to do with the essential ethical identity that lay beneath. In New York, he attended military boarding school in Claverack, and then entered Lafayette College and Syracuse University. Crane was dropped out of the Universities and did not attain degree. The next period of his life had a profound impact on his works: he lived a bohemian life full of luxury and poverty, free will, independence and life grievances. In many of his works, he used the themes of poverty and prosperity as a frame and a source of plot development and conflict resolution. Since childhood, Carne helped his brother in writing articles and essays for local newspaper. In New York, he worked as a journalist and free-lance writer (Bergon 34-35).
It is possible to say that his writing style reflects life philosophy and peculiar world views shared by Crane. “One of the central paradigms of Crane’s early fiction is that of the conflict between the home and the world” (Pizer, 277). Physical prowess, fearlessness, worldliness, contempt, defiance, pleasure, and bravado and style: these are the qualities that are valued by Crane. His first novel, ‘Maggie: A Girl of the Streets’, apperared in 1983. Maggie’s attraction to Pete is another of Crane’s representations of distinctive action in the world of poverty. In her reaction to Pete, she is not hampered by moral qualms. “It [Maggie] is often examined as an indirect dramatization of various personal demons which plagued Crane during his youth, since he too, like George, was raised by a widowed moralistic mother who disapproved of his shiftless way” (Pizer, 277).
Similar to this novel, other works of Crane are based on the idea of poverty and low social classes, lack of money and ethical dilemmas. On the one hand, the choice of themes is based on life experience in New York; on the other hand, there is a strong impact of family values and his father’s personality who died in 1880 and left his family without financial support. These factors influence his next novel “The Red Badge of Courage” apperared in 1895. Working as a journalist, Crane met war veterans and wrote numerous articles for local newspapers portraying hardship and horrors faced by young men. During this period he wrote “Black Riders” (1895). “George’s Mother”, “The Third Violet” and “The Little Regiment” (1896). In many of his works, Crane addresses Americanization and immigrant restriction versus morality, intimate sympathy or condemnation versus remote fascination. Theme of nature and impact on nature on human beings is another theme apperared in the works. His next work, “The Open Boat and Other Tales” is influenced by Crane’s journey to Cuba and an accident on the river. Themes of war and military conflicts appear in his later works and poems: ‘War Is Kind” (1899), “Active Service” (1899), etc. With Crane’s characters, then, the moral sensibility has no privileged status, and no mental faculty stands above the emotions or the desires and scrutinizes them. “If journalism becomes so thoroughly involved in the process of fiction, the suspicion arises that Crane is using it as a way of thinking about fiction” (Crisman 207).
Irony and mockery are the main stylistic devices used by Crane to unveil life troubles and hardship, crying injustice and extreme violence. Irony about low classes and war helps Crane to keep a reader at a distance; irony about middle-class morals rules out righteous condemnation. “The mode of literary naturalism inherited from Crane can “naturalize” the plight of ethnic minorities and the poor” (Dingledine 7). Crane not only encourages fascination as an alternative ethical relation to the poor and war but he also teaches his reader an ironic attitude about evil, casualties of life and inevitability of death. It is possible to say that these writing techniques are a proof against the temptation of moralizing. “Crane’s style shows his typical concerns as a writer of literature, employing … shrewd observations about what many people would miss, irony, dynamic imagery, surprising wording to shock the reader and honor the best in fighting soldiers” (Nelson, 36).
In some of his works, “Wounds in the Rain” and “Whilomville Stories” (1900), Crane rejects the supremacy of the intellect. Critics state that his writing style can be interpreted as a mixture of moral and material terms, which conventionally are kept separate (Bergon 57). For instance, the main characters in “The Open Boat” do not distinguish material and spiritual things, eternal human values and animal desire to survive. For Crane, life is not an abstract notion; in order to ground it in intimate physical existence, Crane compares it to cheese; the adjective “sacred” then saves it from being mundane, which cheese normally is. Another unusual technique used by Crane is a breakdown in syntax. Crane strives for a gritty material metaphor and lets his syntax fall apart. It sometimes seems as if his grammatical mistakes are a kind of counterbalance for his high sounding formulations, or at least a proof of the fact that his ideas are ultimately down-to-earth (Berryman 19).
In sum, Crane’s unique style of writing was influenced by experience, life troubles, family background and values reflected in his works. Crane had a capacity and manner of casting over everyday incidents and phenomena a tinge of almost supernatural color.