Jersey Shore residents may have a vague notion of novelist Stephen Crane from reading his Civil War novel The Red Badge of Courage in high school or from passing by the historical Stephen Crane House in Asbury Park.

But Crane's unromanticized view of the world, which was a hallmark of his fiction, once got him in deep trouble as a reporter at the Jersey Shore.

How Stephen Crane's Reporting Shaped His Fiction

Crane started his writing career as a reporter in Asbury Park for his brother's New Jersey Coast News Bureau, according to the Asbury Park Historical Society. He would later work for the Asbury Tribune, a protean version of what would eventually become the Asbury Park Press, as well as the New York Tribune.

The nature of reporting requires a cool detachment from the subject in order to present it objectively. At least, that's the goal. Crane's fiction takes a stark but realistic view of the world. (WARNING: Spoilers on 150-year-old literature ahead.)

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In The Red Bade of Courage, a soldier was a cowardly albeit totally reasonable reaction to his first taste of war and runs away. He later returns to the battlefront and demonstrates some bravery, which is what his family and community remember of his service long after. Crane paints a warts-and-all portrait of a soldier where other writers would romanticize a war hero.

Crane's story "The Open Boat" ends with the strongest man in a boat carrying four survivors of a shipwreck dying on a beach, having exerted the most energy in trying to get them rescued. We're inclined to root for the character gives of himself to help the group, but nature doesn't especially care what we think.

That clear-eyed assessment of the natural world and human nature, that instinct to puncture shiny ego balloons is a reflex for most reporters. It's also one that landed Crane in hot water.

Stephen Crane Fired for Asbury Park Parade Article

Crane was working for the New York Tribune when he wrote an article covering the Junior Order of United American Mechanics American Day Parade in Asbury Park. Crane managed to insult both the society people watching the parade and the laborers marching in it.

"The procession was composed of men, bronzed, slope-shouldered, uncouth and begrimed with dust," he wrote of the workers.

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His assessment of his neighbors was even more scathing: "The bona fide Asbury Parker is a man to whom a dollar, when held close to his eyes, often shuts out any impression he may have had that other people possess rights."

Ouch. You can (and should) read the entire thing.

After the article ran, Crane was fired. The Asbury Park Historical Society noted Crane's mocking article made national news.

This ex-reporter is sending off a slow-clap of deep admiration to the ghost of Stephen Crane, though. Parade coverage is one of the worst assignments you can get. It's hot, there are hundreds of people, and your essential function is to watch people walk and then ask people along the sidelines about how exciting it was to walk. The. Worst.

So, snarky Stephen Crane, I salute you.

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