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Stephen Crane on Heroism

Stephen Crane, an avant-garde writer of his time, forced his readers to look beyond his written words for a more underlined, meaningful moral in most of his stories. Crane follows a strict pattern in most of his work. His subject matter usually deals with the physical, emotional, and intellectual responses of ordinary people confronted by extraordinary, extreme experiences. Fairly common themes are presented in his writing, including fallen humanity and harsh realities; yet all seem to overlap in the category of heroism. Crane, fascinated by the status of a hero, seemed to moralize each story he wrote with a sense of hope. Readers get the impression that you do not have to be super-human to possess super-human abilities, and in return, be a hero.In Crane’s A Mystery Of Heroism, the search for the question ‘What is a hero?’ is explored. Fred Collins, a union soldier in the Civil War, is a simple man. Out of place, Fred is a shameful, childish man thrown into a war that has no place for him. During the course of the story, Collins yearns for a drink of well water located across an active battlefield. Going against all his inhibitions and judgment, and going along with peer pressure, Collins decides to make the suicidal trip. Remarkably, Collins somehow gathers himself together and reaches the well of water, surprising himself in the meantime. Upon arrival at his destination, Collins ponders the miraculous obstacles he overcame and even dubs himself a "hero" for a moment. But what is a hero? Must one run across a battlefield for a drink to be put in the category of courageous? Is heroism nothing but defying death? Fred Collins evaluates his life at this point to disprove the title he loosely put upon himself: "No, it could not be true. He was not a hero. Heroes had no shames in their lives an, as for him, he remembered borrowing fifteen dollars from a friend and promising to pay it back the next day, ...

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