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Religion In Stephen Crane's The Red Badge Of Courage

1995 words - 8 pages

Stephen Crane was born in 1871 and died in 1900. He was the author of famous works such as the short story "The Open Boat", and novels such as Maggie: Girl of the Streets and The Red Badge of Courage. The Red Badge of Courage is a Civil War novel about a young man, Henry Fleming, and his journey toward adulthood. Stephen Crane uses vivid religious imagery, to express the central theme, of the novel, spiritual growth. Religious imagery are images or symbols that have a religious meaning. Religious imagery is also evident in depicting the characters of the book such as Henry Fleming, Wilson, Jim Conklin, and Henry's mother. Moreover, it is also used to express settings in the book such as the woods and the corpse-infested battlefields. It has been argued that Crane's cynic view of religion in his novels, stemmed from his childhood.As a child, Stephen Crane faced many adversities in his life in which his faith was tested. As he was growing up, he felt isolated by his father "in a hostile universe" which was where the inspiration for Henry Fleming's "soul searching may have developed (Wertheim 44). When Crane was nine years old, his father Jonathan Townley and a Methodist minister, died in 1880 (Silverman 9). Crane remembers "polishing the silver handles of the coffin in the kitchen while the country women sang hymns" (Barbato 4). The terrors of that "village funeral" stayed with him (Barbato 4). He wrote later, "We tell kids that heaven is just across the gaping grave and all that bosh and then we scare them to glue with flowers and white sheets and hymns. We ought to be crucified for it! I have forgotten nothing...not a damned iota, not a shred" (Barbato 4).Crane's mother, Helen Crane, died ten years later in 1890. She was a religious woman who lectured for the Woman's Christian Temperance Union. Crane described her as someone who "lived in and for religion," who couldn't fathom that her children may "[slip] from Grace and [give] up eternal damnation or salvation of those things" (Werthiem 42). Helen Crane would represent many of Crane's "maternal figures" in his novels, such as Mrs. Fleming (Wertheim 42). Mrs. Fleming advised her son, before he had to ship out war, not to drink or cause trouble, she also reminded him that the "Lord'll take keer of us all" (Crane 15). In Helen Crane's last letters to her son, she writes to be good, independent and honest, just as Mrs. Fleming wanted for her son ("Crane" 506).Stephen Crane used religious imagery in his novels to display his view, which was a negative one. During the 1890's new scientific principles were arising, and from that literary movements, such as naturalism, became evident. Naturalism is the assumption that everything real exists in nature. It was a reaction to the revolution brought out by Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin. Naturalistic works tend to accentuate "either a biological or socioeconomic determinism." Usually these works are likely to be objective in the journey humans or animals...

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