February 22, 2018
Crane's Restored Red BadgeOn this day in 1982, Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage was published by Norton and Company in "the only complete edition from the original manuscript." All previous editions incorporated all or most of the cuts and changes that had been made to Crane's manuscript for its original publication in 1895. Crane had made these changes, but many now agree that they were coerced by an editor with an eye to the marketplace, and were so significant as to distort and muddy the story Crane wrote and the theme he intended. The original edition, writes the Norton editor Henry Binder, remade Crane's hero into "a youth who finds courage and self-possession, instead of one who, if he changes at all, becomes at the end even more egotistical and obtuse than he is at the beginning."
The Norton Red Badge comes with a lengthy essay which attempts to back up the above claim. The general argument is that the original edition cuts and downplays Henry's attempts to escape responsibility for his behavior, and correspondingly overplays his growth. At the very end, for example, a final sentence not in the original is added (in italics below), helping to suggest a real reformation out of the ironic one Crane intended -- or so the Norton editor's argument goes:
Over the river a golden ray of sun came through the hosts of leaden rain clouds.
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