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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 259

genius who admired Tolstoy and who somewhat febrilely aimed at absolute truthfulness. He had already written and printed Maggie (1893; published 1896), a horrible picture of a degenerate Irish family in New York and the tragedy of a daughter who by the brutality she has to face at home is driven in desperation to the streets. The style is hard and bald; Crane betrays a youthful partizan’s delight in candor on forbidden topics; he piles up savage details with violent plain-speaking; the plot amounts to nothing more than a succession of writhing tableaus of blood or wretchedness. And yet, despite a good deal that is metallic in its construction, the book has effectiveness and sincerity. In its sort it outdid any native naturalistic novel yet offered to the American public, and after a generation it remains an interesting document in the history of naturalism. But Crane’s great success attended The Red Badge of Courage, an episode of the Civil War. At the time of writing he knew war only from books, but the books he knew were Tolstoy’s War and Peace and probably Zola’s Débâcle. The plumes and trumpets and glory of battle consequently do not appear. The protagonist is a recruit for the first time under fire. Crane had but to imagine himself in a similar danger and reconstruct the moods that came over him. What he produced was amazingly brilliant. His recruit knows nothing of the general plan of the conflict. He obeys commands that he does not understand, that he resents, that he hates. His excited senses color the occasion, even the landscape. He suffers agonies of fatigue and almost a catastrophe of fear before he can be acclimated to his adventure. If he seems unusually imaginative,



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