Red Badge of Courage

A Pilgrimage of Defiance
      Stephen Crane is the quintessential American pilgrim of literature.   In the manner of the European settlers who contested the ways of their homelands and journeyed to build new foundations for their futures, Crane challenged tradition and built a visionary framework not for his own future, but for that of all humanity.   Romanticism, the movement inspired by classical individualism and idealism, was imported from Europe in the earliest days of the nineteenth century and quickly became the most influential philosophy in American culture.   Even the harsh brutality of the Civil War could not entirely displace the people’s belief in the natural goodness of man and power of the individual, but in the time to follow an author tempered by misery would write to expose its fallacies.   Disillusioned with his orthodox religious upbringing and determined to test the validity of Romantic belief, author Stephen Crane employs universal themes and a detached writing style to unseat conventional faith in human transcendence in his naturalist work, The Red Badge of Courage.
      Raised in a strict household under devout parents, Crane soon came to mistrust the religious doctrine with which he was instructed and turned away, searching both internally and externally to discern the answers to life that society and its values could not provide for him.   In order to understand how Crane wrote a novel as deviant and iconoclastic as The Red Badge of Courage, it is necessary to know something of his experiences and personality.   Crane was the fourteenth child of a Methodist preacher and a founder of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union.   His education was a traditionally orthodox one, focusing on religious text and the literature of the Romantic era. Independent from an early age, “Crane’s reaction to being a preacher’s child included cultivating the vices of card-playing, dancing, drinking and smoking- all of which his father had condemned” (Dooley 1)....