Jeopardy! category: THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR (19-1-2015)
$600 clue: This “Red Badge of Courage” author covered the war in Cuba as a reporter for Pulitzer’s New York World newspaper
The gist: At just 25 years old… and after already writing a best-selling novel. Stephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey in late 1871 into a well-respected family that traced itself back to a founder of the New Haven Colony in the 17th century. He began writing his best-known work, The Red Badge of Courage, when he was just 23 years old. Set during the Civil War, it concerned young Henry Fleming, a private in the Union Army, who was ashamed of himself for having fled a battlefield. He yearned for someone to wound him in battle, so he could carry the wound as his own “red badge of courage” against his prior cowardice. It became a hit upon its publication, despite his having no war experience beyond his training at a military school, a fact which drew derision from certain contemporary authors such as Ambrose Bierce. By the time he was hired as a war correspondent in 1896, Crane had already written four novels and many more shorter pieces, such as articles and travel diaries, and was a well-known celebrity complete with scandalous liaisons with alleged prostitutes and tales of standing up to bullying policemen.
Crane left for Cuba for the first time a few weeks after his 25th birthday during the lead-up to the war, stopping first in Jacksonville, Florida to wait for boat passage. While there, he met Cora Taylor, the madame of a local brothel, who became his close partner, in both love and work, for the remainder of his short life. Unfortunately, the ship he boarded ended up wrecking off the Florida coast, forcing him and three other men to find their way to land in a small dinghy. He recounted the experience in the short story “The Open Boat,” published in Scribner’s Magazine. Leaving Cuba behind for now, he and Taylor instead turned their attention to the Greco-Turkish War. After the explosion of the Maine in 1898, Crane was again sent to Cuba as the papers “expected” (that is, intended) war to break out very soon. His war correspondence was well-received by readers back home, and he was noted for writing honestly and candidly about the fear he himself experienced while observing (and, to a limited degree, serving) in the battles. He also witnessed the establishment of the American base at Guantánamo Bay, which notoriously still operates today. While in Cuba, he contracted yellow fever and malaria, which may have exacerbated the lung problems he had experienced his entire life, and he returned to England to be with Taylor in early 1899. He died a year and a half later.
The clue: More or less a standard clue, on a perennially favourite book that’s regarded as a classic of not only American literature but of war stories overall. The clue does succeed, I think, in illuminating Crane’s life a little – for many people, he’s probably just the name of the cover of the book they read in middle or high school, and they might not have realized how intimately tied up with wars (albeit not the one he most famously wrote about) his life was. I like this one, even if the operational bit is just “who wrote The Red Badge of Courage?”
In Jeopardy!: As I said, a perennial favourite: Mr. Crane is in 48 regular clues plus an FJ! in the J!Archive. Not surprisingly, 36 of the regular clues and the FJ! are about The Red Badge of Courage. Of his other work, his first novel Maggie: Girl on the Streets is mentioned six times, and “The Open Boat” four; no others are mentioned more than once or twice. And this clue is the only one to mention Cuba, although one other is about the Spanish-American War. So, pretty clear what you need to know about him, I’d say. Definitely a book you ought to know the author of.