STEPHEN CRANE The Red Badge of Courage Biography of Stephen Crane Analyzing his Prose: Details Images Diction Language Shifts Syntax Connection to theme Maggie: A Girl of the Streets – further understanding of Crane
“[Crane] had not been interested in bringing the Civil War back to life as “historical fiction… It was psychology, not history, that drew the twenty-one-year-old to write about war at all. Clearly, the psychology of war was deep in Crane himself, perhaps in what John Berryman insisted was Crane’s “fear.” And just as Crane’s adventurous and daredevil life may indeed have been his way of confronting this “fear,” so Crane was fascinated by all profession of manhood and the large place that “courage” plays in the inner life of men.” – Alfred Kazin
Biography • Born in Newark, NJ in 1871 – 14th child of a prominent Methodist preacher and founder of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union • Stoic and tight lipped, Crane was a sardonic observer who was against conventions and always made a point of being “different” • “Crane loved every example of the extreme in human affairs… He was naturally ironic about American pieties and social convention.” – Alfred Kazin • Never finished college and mocked formal education • Impressions of human conflict from observing a college football game was the basis for a lot of his writing • Young paper boy who had never seen war • Reported the Spanish – American war as a journalist in Cuba and the Graeco – Turkish War after writing the Red Badge of Courage • Started out writing under the pseudonym: Johnston Smith. His work was too vulgar and exploitive of the harsh conditions experienced by Irish immigrants in the US • Intrigued by the hostilities of immigrants in New York • Rebellious workers were declared as the “angry class” by the upper class Americans, yet they were mad at each other • Published his first novel in a Philadelphia newspaper • Moved to England during his last years • Died in 1900 of lung disease when he was only 29 • Knowledge of his impending death instilled in him a fear that he projected and explored in many of his novels (theme = always courage) • Promoted the idea of a “Godless world,” and brought to focus the sudden skepticism of a generation that had seen religion’s authority weakened by science and conventional patriotism abandoned for American imperialism
“During the march the ardor which the youth had acquired when out of view of the field rapidly faded to nothing. His curiosity was quite easily satisfied. If an intense scene had caught him with its wild swing as he came to the top of the bank, he might have gone roaring on. This advance upon Nature was too calm. He had opportunity to reflect. He had time in which to wonder about himself and to attempt to probe his sensations. Absurd ideas took hold upon him. He thought that he did not relish the landscape. It threatened him. A coldness swept over his back, and it is true that his trousers felt to him that they were no fit for his legs at all.” PG 22 • “Huh!”
Details Facts that are included or those that are omitted – how does this connect to the author’s main idea? The Red Badge of Courage
Details… “ The Red Badge of Courage deals less in external violence than in mental states” – Alfred Kazin • Crane focuses on the emotional and psychological struggles of people • Names are rarely mentioned • Protagonist = “the youth” (Henry) • Crane generalizes war for young men, mocking their fearless recklessness and the ignorance they have that makes them think that “there are forces that youth ignorantly and tragically thinks it can control” • Helpless builds rage in men instilling in them a desire for power. This brings a courage that is otherwise fear courage rises from fear when trapped in a life or death situation – Darwin’s survival instincts arise • Youth learns he controls nothing, just another helpless soldier “courage is as mechanical as desertion” • Crane maintains a distant narrative view. He leaves the names of the soldiers out and focuses on the internal conflict within these characters rather than the physical, impending doom displayed in the setting of battle • Crane instills in the audience a curiosity for the events that had occurred, however, he overshadows the audience’s curiosity with the psychological analyses of each character and their conflict with either themselves, or another soldier on the battlefield
Details… (1)What is Crane doing here? “Once a certain tall soldier developed virtues and went resolutely to wash a shirt. He came flying back from a brook waving his garment bannerlike. He was swelled with a tale he had heard from a reliable friend, who had heard it from a truthful cavalryman, who had heard it from his trustworthy brother, one of the orderlies at division headquarters. He adopted the important air of a herald in red and gold.” PG1
Technique: Withholding names Why: • Crane focuses on the characteristics of each battle and person rather than the status • Actual war = Battle at Chancellors Ville, however, the name is never mentioned, the war is simply described in terms of causes and effects • Instead of referring to his main character as Henry Fleming – he calls him “the youth,” and his “tall friend,” is actually Jim Conklin. • These names are only mentioned in times of panic. Most of the story exists in the reflection and stream of consciousness of Henry • Crane sets up the setting and characters through a series of descriptive adjectives and chain of actions and emotional exchanges Effect on the audience:
Details…(1)Crane sets up the setting and characters through a series of descriptive adjectives and chain of actions and emotional exchanges “Once a certain tall soldierdeveloped virtues and went resolutely to wash a shirt. He came flying back from a brook waving his garment bannerlike. He was swelled with a talehe had heard from a reliable friend, who had heard it from a truthful cavalryman, who had heard it from his trustworthy brother, one of the orderlies at division headquarters. He adopted the important air of a herald in red and gold.” PG1
Details … (2)Identify the techniques Crane is using here: “After a time the tall soldier slid dexterously through the hole. The loud private followed. They were wrangling. “That’s all right,” said the tall soldier as he entered. He waved his hand expressively. “You can believe me or not, jest as you like. All you got to do is sit down and wait as quiet as you can. Then pretty soon you’ll find out I was right.” His comrade grunted stubbornly. For a moment he seemed to be searching for a formidable reply. Finally he said: “Well, you don’t know everything in the world, do you.” “Didn’t say I knew everything in the world,” retorted the other sharply. He began to stow various articles snugly into his knapsack.” PG 9
“After a time the tall soldierslid dexterously through the hole. The loud private followed. They were wrangling. “That’s all right,” said the tall soldier as he entered. He waved his hand expressively. “You can believe me or not, jest as you like. All you got to do is sit down and wait as quiet as you can. Then pretty soon you’ll find out I was right.” His comrade grunted stubbornly. For a moment he seemed to be searching for a formidable reply. Finally he said: “Well, you don’t know everything in the world, do you.” “Didn’t say I knew everything in the world,” retorted the other sharply. He began to stow various articles snugly into his knapsack.” PG 9 Crane is: Withholding names and focusing on the characteristics and interactions between the characters Emphasizing conflict, yet withholding the object of conflict Making characters and dialogues that usually involve one reasonable and one irrational and confused person who questions the other Challenges the boundaries of knowledge through power Causes a lot of tension and waiting between both the characters and the audience Details… (2) Effect (on the audience):
Details… (3)What is Crane doing here? Identify and highlight his techniques “Presently he began to feel the effects of the war atmosphere – a blistering sweat, a sensation that his eyeballs were about to crack like hot stones. A burning roar filled his ears. Following this came a red rage. He developed the acute exasperation of a pestered animal, a well meaning cow worried by dogs. He had a mad feeling against his rifle, which could only be used against one life at a time. He wished to rush forward and strangle with his fingers. He craved a power that would enable him to make a world sweeping gesture and brush all back. His impotency appeared to him, and made his rage into that of a driven beast.” PG 33
Details… (3)Explanation • Crane is focusing on the psychological battle within his character Henry and the fears he faces while in battle • Henry, rather than noticing the setting, is articulated through the 3rd person narrative describing his internal conflicts; one which dwells upon the theme of courage and his desperate hunger for strength • Crane talks about the effects Henry feels from war rather than the physical setting • Crane uses a lot of metaphors to convey the fear and anxiety Henry felt: “He developed the acute exasperation of a pestered animal, a well meaning cow worried by dogs.” • Effect: audience understands the cowardice men, represented by the youth, experiences once out on the battlefield • They notice the interior breakdown of Henry, despite his earlier words of curiosity and reassurance.
Images Vivid appeals to understand through the five senses • What images are used as figures of speech? • What images are used as symbols?
Images “In the gloom before the break of the day their uniforms glowed a deep purple hue. From across the river the red eyes were still peering. In the eastern sky there was a yellow patch like a rug laid for the feet of the coming sun and against it, black and patternlike, loomed the gigantic figure of the colonel on a gigantic horse.” PG 13 Crane uses imagery a lot in the form of colors and symbolism to represent both the contrast in situations and emotions provoked in the soldiers.
Images “Staring once at the red eyes across the river, he conceived them to be growing larger, as the orbs of a row of dragons advancing… A moment later the regiment went swinging off into the darkness. It was now like one of those moving monsters wending with many feet. The air was heavy, and cold with dew. A mass of wet grass, marched upon, rustled like silk. There was an occasional flash and glimmer of steel from the backs of all these huge crawling reptiles.” PG 13
Diction The connotations or associations of words; the types of words used: different words for the same thing often suggest different attitudes toward that thing
Diction "We're goin' t' move t'morrah--sure," he said pompously to a group in the company street. "We're goin' 'way up the river, cut across, an' come around in behint 'em." "Yank," the other had informed him, "yer a right dum good feller."This sentiment, floating to him upon the still air, had made him temporarily regret war. • Crane writes all his dialogue in 1860's Civil War vernacular. Almost all dialouge is written in this slang format, i.e t'morrah, licken, yer, dum etc. • Crane enforces diction to provide a dramatic contrast between the sophisticated language of the narrator and the crude, vulgar language of the uneducated soldiers trapped within their position
Language The overall use of language What type of language is used? Does the language differ
Language (1) Pg. 20 “He could hear the men whisper jerky sentences: “Say--what’s all this--about?” “What’s th’ thunder--we--skedaddlin’ this way fer?” “Billie--keep off m’ feet. Yeh run--like a cow.” And the little solilder’s shrill voice could be heard: “What th’ devil they in sich a hurry for?”
Language (2) Pg. 39 “They fretted and complained each to each. “Oh, say, this is too much of a good thing! Why can’t somebody send us supports?”
Syntax: Sentence Structure How the sentence structure affects the reader’s attitude Length of sentences Sentence variety: Fragments? Run on? Sentence beginnings Unusual punctuation: Dashes, colons What effect does the sentence structure have on the tone?
Syntax “He must accumulate information of himself, and meanwhile he resolved to remain close upon his guard lest those qualities of which he knew nothing should everlastingly disgrace him… For a moment he seemed to be searching for a formidable reply… “Of course there is,” replied the tall soldier. “Of course there is. You jest wait ‘til tomorrow, and you’ll see one of the biggest battles ever was. You jest wait.” PG 9 As you can see, the sentence structure of the narrative is presented in medium - long sentences, separated by commas. The dialogue however, is presented with a lot of short sentences and separated by periods. A lot of times dialogue beginnings would start with rephrasing the question asked.
Shifts (progression) Where does the piece change and why? Key words Punctuation Stanza or paragraph divisions Changes in line or stanza length Structure Changes in sound Changes in Diction The Red Badge of Courage
Shifts in the Red Badge of Courage “His curiosity was quite easily satisfied. This advance upon Nature was too calm. He had opportunity to reflect. He had time in which to wonder about himself and to attempt to probe his sensations.” PG 22 • Crane’s shifts consist of mostly stanza/paragraph divisions, changes in sound, and changes in diction which makes up the structure of his books • Changes in paragraph divisions are like changes in perspectives through the main character’s point of view • You could relate it to a change in lens, a new idea formed by the character, or different ways of tackling the same problem separated by each division • Shifts = different day/different outlooks on life, flashbacks vs. present, different POVS/opinions, different lenses and views of the war and himself, constantly changing because Henry is still in the process of learning, like a camera lens focusing distance between the audience and the main character, conflicts between the main character vs the war, the main character vs himself. Shifts tackle different problems. We’re constantly watching Henry’s wall of confidence and knowledge crumble and his pathetic attempt to rebuild, each time stronger and more defiant • Changes in Sound and diction separates the stream of consciousness the main character expresses his opinions and curiosities in vs the crude and vulgar language used in the battlefield • At first Henry undermines the rest of the regiment because he believes they’re unrefined and uneducated cowards • Then when Henry breaks down he starts adopting their language
Overview on shifts in the RBC With every stanza, Crane instills in his character a new sense of curiosity, perspective, and self opinionated knowledge. He gives his character a persona in which he picks at everything he sees, however, only describes to us in limited detail. This is his way of trying to interpret and analyze the situation he is in and bring himself to his main theme and question of courage – both within himself, and the other soldiers in his regiment. Every stanza is another way of tackling the same problem – in a different point of view. Distance between stanzas is the distance Crane is trying to virtually create between the character Henry and the Audience, Henry and his surroundings, and Henry and himself. Every stanza is a new phase of self reflection and finally when the style and diction of the character changes, we begin to see his wall of confidence and knowledge crumble to his pathetic façade and attempt to discover courage within himself and others. What he lacks however, is the fearless recklessness to take a chance and exercise his physical courage, rather than ponder about it.
Simple shifts (ex 1) “At last, however, he had made firm rebellion against this yellow light thrown upon the color of his ambitions. The newspapers, the gossip of the village, his own picturings, had aroused him to an uncheckable degree. They were in truth fighting finely down there. Almost every day the newspapers printed accounts of a decisive victory. One night, as he lay in bed, the winds had carried to him the clangoring of the church bell as some enthusiast jerked the rope frantically to tell the twisted news of a great battle. This voice of the people rejoicing in the night had made him shiver in a prolonged ecstasy of excitement. Later, he had gone down to his mother’s room and had spoken thus: “Ma, I’m going to enlist.” “Henry, don’t you be a food,” his mother had replied. She had then covered her face with the quilt. There was an end to the matter for that night.” PG 4 Each stanza is a change in setting and mindset. It is also setting up a shift between characters
Shifts (example 1) “After this crossing the youth assured himself that at any moment they might be suddenly and fearfully assaulted from the caves of the lowering woods. He kept his eyes watchfully upon the darkness. But his regiment went unmolested to a camping place, and its soldiers slept the brave sleep of wearied men… The sun spread disclosing rays, and one by one, regiments burst into view like armed men just born of the earth, The youth perceived that the time had come. He was about to be measured. For a moment he felt in the face of his great trial like a babe, and the flesh over his heart seemed very thin. He seized time to look about him calculatingly. But he instantly saw that it would be impossible for him to escape from the regiment. It enclosed him. And there were iron laws of tradition and law on four sides. He was in a moving box As he perceived this fact it occurred to him that he had never wished to come to the war. He had not enlisted of his free will. He had been dragged by the merciless government and now they were taking him out to be slaughtered.” PG 21
Shifts … (2)What causes this change in diction and sound? What does this represent? How is this a turning point? “The youth put forth anxious arms to assist him, but the tall soldier went firmly on as if propelled. Since the youth’s arrival as a guardian for his friend, the other wounded men had ceased to display much interest. They occupied themselves again in dragging their own tragedies toward the rear. Suddenly, as the two friends marched on, the tall soldier seemed to be overcome by a terror. His face turned to a semblance of gay paste. He clutched the youth’s arm and looked all about him , as if dreading to be overheard. The he began to speak in a shaking whisper: “I tell yeh what I’m ‘fraid of, Henry – I’ll tell yeh what I’m ‘fraid of. I’m ‘fraid I’ll fall down – an’ then yeh know – them damned artillery wagons – they like as not ‘ll run over me. That’s what I’m ‘fraid of-“ The youth cried out to him hysterically: “I’ll take care of yeh, Jim! I’ll take care of yeh! I swear t’ Gawd I will!”… He could not speak accurately because of the gulpings in his throat.” PG 53
Changes: Names are acknowledged in dialogue Henry takes on the language of the rest of the soldiers rather than the ‘refined’ and ‘insightful’ language he reflects in Distance between characters are removed Established relations between “the youth” and “the tall soldier” Tall soldier finally breaks down – loses control Acknowledges fears in the open Impact on story: Henry’s defenses are breaking down The people that Henry trusted to be strong and a role model are falling apart themselves Henry becomes the “guardian” Henry and Jim are acknowledged as friends – intimate relationship formed amidst the conflicts of battle Losing his ‘friend,’ Henry is all alone now – growth – must be independent and stronger Turning point in the Red Badge of Courage exposed through shifts
Theme The longstanding theme in the Red Badge of Courage is in fact, courage. The main character who is referred to as "the youth", undergoes personal struggles within himself. He tries to justify his actions and to the youth, courage is the most important quality of a man. Projecting his own fears of time and death, Crane centralizes the theme of courage and control within The Red Badge of Courage. He criticizes, through his character Henry, the selfish acts of human beings when faced with their fears.
Maggie: A Girl in the Streets…in relations to The Red Badge of Courage and Crane’s prose Brief Overview: Enraptured by the conflict of immigrants flourishing in the streets of New York, Crane revolves his story around his opinion that “the sense of a city is war.” The two main characters in this book are Jimmie, and Maggie. Jimmie, the brother of Maggie, an angry and scornful realist, grows from his mother’s constant abuse to find himself a job as a truck driver. Maggie evolved from her dysfunctional family and drunken abuse of her mother a put together and observant beauty. Her only downfall was her naive attraction to the false eloquence of Pete, throwing herself into the degrading work of a prostitute. Realizing her unfixable mistake and ruined reputation, she suicides throwing herself into the river that had been a sanctuary for her. “On the corners he was in life and of life. The world was going on and he was there to perceive it. He maintained a belligerent attitude toward all well dressed men. To him fine raiment was allied to weakness, and all good coats covered faint hearts. He and his order were kings, to a certain extent, over the men of untarnished clothes, because these latter dreaded, perhaps, to be either killed or laughed at. Above all things he despised obvious Christians and ciphers with the chrysanthemums of aristocracy in their buttonholes. He considered himself above both of these classes. He was afraid of nothing.” PG 15
Details/Diction: Every sentence, Crane manages to analyze and refer to human nature as a cause of the characters’ actions Crane uses powerful and beautiful diction to describe his characters not through imagery, but through their possessions and actions. “His hat was tipped over his eye with an air of challenge. Between his teeth a cigar stump was tilted at the angle of defiance.” PG 2 “Withered persons, in curious postures of submission to something, sat smoking pipes in obscure corners.” PG 5 “Maggie, with side glances of fear of interruption, ate like a small pursued tigress… Jimmie sat nursing his various wounds. He cast furtive glances at his mother. His practiced eye perceived her gradually emerge from a mist of muddled sentiment until her brain burned in drunken heat. He sat breathless.” PG 9 “A reader of the words of wind demons might have been able to see the portions of a dialogue pass to and fro between the exhorter and his hearers. “You are damned,” said the preacher. And the reader of sounds might have seen the reply go forth from the ragged people: “Where's our soup?” PG 14 Imagery: Crane uses colors a lot to symbolize certain emotions experienced by his characters as a painter “[uses] strong colors to frame and emphasize his material” - Tom Wolfe He often plays upon the contrast of colors to set up a desperate situation “Eventually they entered a dark region where, from a careening building, a dozen gruesome doorways gave up loads of babies to the street and the gutter. A wind of early autumn raised yellow dust from cobbles and swirled it against a hundred windows.” PG 5 “Her yellow brows shaded eyelids that had grown blue.” PG 13 Transition – both physical and metaphorical exposes the tragedy of the situation “Jimmy’s occupation for a long time was to stand on street corners and watch the world go by, dreaming blood-reddreams at the passing of pretty women.” PG 15 Symbolic of his past abuses projected upon society “She received a stool and a machine in a room where sat twenty girls of various shades of yellow discontent.” PG 19 Crane’s main techniques…utilized in the novel of Maggie: a Girl of the Streets
Connection to The Red Badge of Courage • Focuses on the conflicts and internal struggles between individuals (self vs. society, self vs. self, self vs. someone else) • Contrasts a lot between yellow and grey • Sense of desperateness and extremity in all human affairs • Detached presentation of life • Naivete present in at least one of the main characters • Characters are props used to expose the vulgarity of people in the existing environment • Reflects upon the actions of people when trapped in a hopeless situation in which they have no control, yet helped create