Essay about Stephen Crane and The Civil War

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Stephen Crane and The Civil War


While merely speculative, some biographers claim that Crane began The Red Badge of Courage in response to a challenge made by an acquaintance urging him to write a war novel that exceeded the quality of Emile Zola’s Le débâcle. Crane, shortly thereafter, undertook the task and researched various articles in Century magazine on battles and leaders in the Civil War. In several personal letters he writes of the process he underwent in producing the narrative and discusses his opinions and feelings in reference to the quality of his work. While he generally concedes to the positive opinions surrounding its reviews, he makes a conscious effort to refute the notion that The Red Badge of Courage is
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Appleton & Company. Crane, while frustrated with the publishing process, realized the necessity of the book’s success. Experiencing a time of high stress and personal struggle, The Red Badge of Courage became the answer to his problems. In several letters he comments on the process of writing the novel. To an editor of Leslie’s Weekly he wrote [about November, 1895]:








I decided that the nearer a writer gets to life the greater he becomes as an artist, and most of my prose writings have been toward the goal partially described by that misunderstood and abused word, realism … I’ve been a free lance during most of the time I have been doing literary work, writing stories and articles about anything under heaven that seemed to possess interest, and selling them wherever I could. It was hopeless work. Of all human lots for a person of sensibility that of an obscure free lance in literature or journalism is, I think, the most discouraging. It was during this period that I wrote The Red Badge of Courage. It was an effort born of pain—despair, almost; and I believe that this made it a better piece of literature than it otherwise would have been. It seems a pity that art should be a child of pain, and yet I think it is. Of course we have fine writers who are prosperous and contented, but in my opinion their work would be greater if this were not so. It lacks the sting it would have if under the spur…