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STEPHEN CRANE

 

(1871-1900)

 

Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey. He was the fourteenth and

youngest child of a poor clergyman. When Stephen was not yet ten years

old, his father died and the family moved to New York where an older son

was in charge of a news bureau for New York and Philadelphia newspapers.

A few years later this elder brother gave Stephen his first

news-reporting job, scouting for vacation news at a small sea-side town.

But his apprenticeship did not last long. Once when the elder brother

had to leave town, young Stephen took entire charge of the work. Amang

the incidents of that week was a parade of mechanics, in connection with

a State holiday, which Stephen had witnessed. He reported the parade in

a way to suggest comparison between the parading poor workmen and the

fashionable crowd who watched them, whom the writer called idlers. The

feature-story appeared in the New York Tribune the owner of which was

then running for vice-president in the elections. His political enemies,

offended by the story, discredited him with the result that his opponent

won the elections. Of course, Stephen's brother who was considered

responsible for the story was immediately discharged.

 

Crane had meanwhile attended two private schools. His interests at the

time centred chiefly on poetry and on baseball. He would have continued

these pursuits at the university but could not afford to go on with his

education for want of money: after a term each at the college of

Lafayette and Syracuse University he brought his student days to an end

in 1891.

 

Crane was a born writer and naturally turned to newspaper work as a

means of earning a living. It was Crane's nature to be experimental. He

had a keen sense of the dramatic. His mind instantly caught the absurd

or ridiculous aspect of any incident and he would draw out an account of

it in his own entertaining fashion. But editors did not like news

stories in which the reporters' impressions dominated over the facts,

and he had to give up newspaper work. Now and then he wrote stories

which were sometimes accepted by various papers. Crane was very

independent, in financial as well as in intellectual matters. He refused

to take financial help from friends and relatives. As to his writings he

was spoken of as a writer of the "pioneer type". He also wrote free

verse. In protest against conventions he wrote the following poem:

 

"Think as I think," said a man,

 

"Or you are abominably wicked,

 

You are a toad."

 

And after I had thought of it,

 

I said: "I will then be a toad."

 

For several years Crane lived in the poorest section of New York and in

cities in New Jersey. He suffered extreme poverty. He saw the

destitution in the slums. It was perhaps at this time that he wrote:

 

A man said to the universe:

 

"Sir, I exist!"

 

"However," replied the universe,

 

"The fact has not created in me

 

A sense of obligation."

 

The general spirit of the nineties, as pointed out in the introduction

to this chapter, was that of unrest and alarm, which increased after the

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