Crane’s novel Maggie: A Girl of the Streets depicts the embattled lives of people surviving in the New York inner city and the brutalizing effects of poverty, ignorance, and drunkenness on their lives. The book has been labeled a work of naturalistic fiction; like Emile Zola, a nineteenth-century French naturalistic writer, Crane suggests that people are victims of their environments.
Following up on the success of The Red Badge of Courage, Crane wrote The Little Regiment and Other Episodes of the American Civil War. Possibly the most interesting story in this collection is “The Veteran,” which shows Henry Fleming as an old man. When a barn catches fire, old Henry rescues a drunken hired man who set the fire; when Henry returns to the burning barn to save some colts, he becomes trapped and dies.
In “The Monster” (1898), a story similar to “The Veteran,” Crane depicts a community’s reaction to a disfigured man in its midst. In the story, a black man badly burns himself while saving a young white boy from a burning house; although the townspeople initially proclaim him a hero, they eventually brand him a monster. The renowned black American writer, Ralph Ellison, called “The Monster” the first story in American literature to feature a black man as a hero.
The Red Badge of Courage was made into a movie in 1951 by John Huston, who both directed the film and wrote the screenplay. It starred Audie Murphy, the most decorated American hero in World War II, as Henry Fleming, and also featured Bill Mauldin, Royal Dano, and John Dierkes. In 1974 Lee Philips directed an adequate television movie version of the novel starring Richard Thomas as Henry.