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The Naturalist Movement: The Monster, And The Red Badge Of Courage By Stephen Crane

3668 words - 15 pages

“A man said to the universe: ‘Sir, I exist!’ ‘However’ replied the universe, ‘the fact has not created in me a sense of obligation’”~ Stephen Crane. Crane was the champion of the American naturalist movement. Following the Civil War, American authors had to adjust and react to the astounding amount of death that occurred. Authors began to write more realistic stories and started the Realism movement. The Realist authors who took the foundations a step farther created the Naturalists. Naturalists believed that humans were hopeless and that the world was against human nature. These authors could touch on more controversial problems in life, such as racism and violence because they could create a realistic environment and make a comment on society through the characters’ inability to change the environment. Naturalist, like Crane, believed that the environment dictated human nature and life. For example, a person in poverty could not escape poverty because of the society around them would limit or totally eradicate any chance of improving their lives. These ideas spawned not only from the Civil War put from the crowded cities and slums where the poor suffered and remained poor. Humans cannot, in the eyes of a Naturalist, make effective change to their standing in life. The Naturalistic influence in The Monster and The Red Badge of Courage created common philosophies in the novels.
The Monster is believed to be based off several events that occurred during Crane’s life (Nagel). Stephen got the idea of a man without a face from Levi Hume. Levi suffered from cancer which ate away his face and left him a faceless man, much like Henry Johnson in The Monster. Another possible influence on the novel was the life of John Merrick (Nagel). John Merrick, much like Johnson and Levi, he didn’t have a face. Unlike Levi, and very much like Henry, Merrick was taken in and cared for by a Dr. Frederick Treves. Finally, the lynching of Robert Lewis in Port Jervis, New York affected Crane (McMurray). Crane had some relation to the lynching through Judge William Crane who tried to resist the mob from lynching Robert Lewis (McMurray). Worse yet, no man was charged or investigated for the murder of the Robert as the coroner found Robert died “by being hung by the neck by a person or persons unknown to this jury.”(McMurray). The lynching showed Crane the evils of the racism that ran rampant during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. These events helped to create the basis for The Monster.
The Red Badge of Courage has a much different background. Crane never actually experienced being a solider in the Civil War. In fact, he was born six years after the war was over and found other books on the Civil War uninteresting and dry. Crane set to write about the war in a more novelistic way and place the reader into the shoes of a soldier. In this way Crane created a novel about the Civil War that is unlike any other one written before. For never being a part of the war, Crane...

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