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WILLIAM M. MORGAN Between Conquest and Care: Masculinity and Community in Stephen Crane's The Monster The Monster (1897) was penned while Stephen Crane lived in exile in England and shortly before he made his mark as a front-line reporter during the Spanish-American War. The novella records Crane's ambivalence toward the strenuous ethos of white masculinity that Theodore Roosevelt championed and came to embody, and that Crane often represented in his journalism during the 1890s. TR's triumph over his own sickly Victorian adolescence and then over the bodies of racial others to become a "Rough Rider" is perhaps the Anglo-American story of masculinist ideology the nation has inhetited from the cultures Crane experienced. Roosevelt, in his zeal to spread his message of Anglo-Saxon, masculine superiority, had even written to Crane in 1 896 suggesting: "Some day I want you to write another story of the frontiersman and the Mexican Greaser in which the frontiersman shall come out on top; it is more normal that way!" (qtd. Correspondence 1: 128). This passage is brief and blunt, yet it sets forth the racial mandate implicit to the strenuous ethos. According to Roosevelt's logic, the "Mexican Greaser" is to serve as a foil, as a figure less than fully manful, against which to construct the "frontiersman." As in The Winning of the West (1889-1896) and his other writings and speeches advocating for imperial engagement, Roosevelt's vigorous emphasis here is that the "frontiersman," the "peculiarly American" (qtd. Bederman 191) individual who could only be a white man, has "to come out on top" if fiction , life, and national identity are to be "normal." Roosevelt stresses Arizona Quarterly Volume 56, Number 3, Autumn 2000 Copyright © 2000 by Arizona Board of Regents ISSN 0004-1610 64William M. Morgan to Crane that, although Crane fictionalizes the right material, Crane's fiction would be better if he too would observe a "normal" logic of race and masculinity. In The Monster, Crane in a sense writes back to Roosevelt. When read in the context of cultural and biographical history, Crane's The Monster depicts how the strenuous ethos of white masculinity was constituted, suggests its cultural power, yet demystifies its imagined moral force. On the one hand, the displacement of an inward-looking, sentimental, Victorian American cultural order by a more outward-looking and militant formation of United States culture is readily decipherable in the novella. Still, the most profound result of the grotesque effacement of Henry Johnson, a black stable-hand whose fate divides the community, is to call this cultural reorientation into question.1 As the character of Dr. Trescott is partially maternalized through his care and sense of responsibility for the maimed patient, Crane's novella recuperates a nurturing masculine ethos with links to the tropes of a woman's domesticity. In addition, during the final four years of Crane's life, he increasingly turned away from a masculinist ethos of self-control, physical virility, and racial conquest and toward one of communal care, intersubjective compassion, and responsibility.2 The Monster, structured by its various aesthetic, ideological, and generic tensions, depicts a divide between a residual and nurturing masculine ethos, which Crane comes to associate with high culture and his own sense of exile, and the strenuous ethos ascendant in his time.' The Monster was first published in Harper's Magazine in 1898 during the heyday of a local-colorist project that was sponsored, according to Richard Brodhead, by Eastern high-cultural periodicals and their elite and middle-class urban readerships (107-41). Crane sets the novella in "Whilomville," which seems, at least on some narrative surfaces, a timeless small-town. Closer to Winesburg, Ohio than Dünnet Landing, Maine, Whilomville sometimes produces nostalgia by offering glimpses of the routines and rituals once organizing the cultural life of the nation's village-communities. Sharing with Crane's other Whilomville Stories (1900) their fascination with the "pure animal spirits" ("The Carriage-Lamps," Prose 1209) and "meanings of boyhood" ("Showin' Masculinity and Community65 Off," Prose 1 1 9 1 ), The Monster also brings the imagery of boys out of an insulated world of fantasy and into relation with a...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9595
Print ISSN
0004-1610
Pages
pp. 63-92
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-02
Open Access
No
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