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date: 14 June 2024

Crane, Stephenlocked

Crane, Stephenlocked

  • Mark Richardson

Extract

Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey, on 1 November 1871, the fourteenth and last child of Rev. Jonathan Townley Crane (Methodist by denomination) and Mary Helen Peck Crane (an activist in the temperance movement). Eight of his brothers and sisters survived infancy. Crane's early years were spent in the cities of Newark, Bloomington, and Paterson, New Jersey, as his father moved from church to church in the way of Methodist ministers. In 1878 the Reverend Crane accepted a post at Drew Methodist Church in Port Jervis, New York, and there young Stephen lived for some five years, wandering about in the woods of neighboring counties and, from time to time, listening to veterans of the New York 124th Regiment, who often gathered in a park at the center of Port Jervis to swap stories about their service in the Civil War. (It was likely here that Crane's fascination with the war began in earnest, and he may have drawn on the Port Jervis veterans' recollections when writing The Red Badge of Courage.) Reverend Crane died in 1880, leaving Stephen and his siblings to be raised by their mother, whose devotion to the church her husband had served increased as the years rolled by; she died in 1891, after suffering a mental breakdown of uncertain duration and severity. Readers have been known to chuckle at the thought of so pious a father and mother giving birth to so irreverent a son as Stephen Crane. But the son seems less to have been in rebellion against his parents, whom he loved, than simply attuned to the knowing urbanity and cleverness that characterized the younger set in New York City, where he would make his start in the 1890s.

Subjects

  • North American Literatures

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