Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Sonstegard, Adam

Subject Headings

Crane, Stephen, 1871-1900, Red badge of courage, Naturalism in literature, Stephen Crane, Naturalism


Stephen Crane's work the Red badge of courage has often been cited by literary critics as an example of the author's philosophy. The main debate around this philosophy often surrounds the question of Crane's naturalism. Critics not only argue over the individual beliefs that make up Crane's supposedly naturalistic philosophy, but many also argue simply over whether or not he is a naturalist. In this thesis, we step away from the back-and-forth argument that deals only with Crane's fitment into the general label of "naturalist." Rather, we look at aspects that connect Crane to traditional understandings of naturalism - such as a human's helplessness in the face of his environment. We show how Crane offers a unique worldview that identifies the two main forces that determine human destinies - the forces of nature and the forces of human collectives. Ultimately, we show that Crane's pessimism and his lack of faith in human agency was a result of a scientific understanding of the universe. Crane suggests a scientific determinism in the universe and in all human actions. This determinism could override even the political and nationalist movements and ideologies that are traditionally attributed to war and great changes in society. We also resolve a sticking point of Crane scholarship -where the naturalism arguments encounter a seeming contradiction as Crane shows the immense power of collectives to determine individual human lives. This phenomenon comes about through the destructive social forces created by "mobs" of people, acquiring great power by embracing ideologies and other values with no compromise. Finally, we extend this analysis to make some conclusions on the implications of humanity's collective power. Most importantly, we show the dangerous nature of mobs in their difficulty to be controlled and the irrationality and even destructiveness of their force