Crane’s “The Upturned Face”

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Stephen Crane’s short story “The Upturned Face” revolves around two soldiers burying a fallen comrade in the midst of battle.  I found interesting the fact that the dead soldier was named “Old Bill” and another soldier was named Timothy Lean.  The adjutant and two privates were not named even though they had as much of a role to play in the story as the other two.

While this story is not macabre in the typical sense of the word, the continuous focus on the  dead body almost puts it into that category.  The title referrs to how they buried “Old Bill” and the twinge of regret they have in burying him so quickly and without the care a proper burial would have required.  The reader might have to at least give them an “A” for effort.  They attempted to say a “service”.

The aspect of the story that will probably stick with me is the “plop” of the dirt going into the grave.  Crane managed to take such a simple word and put into it so much of the finality of life and at times the apparent meaninglessness of it.  The story is only about five pages.  While not exactly an uplifter, it doesn’t take long and I would say it’s worth the read.

The Portable Stephen Crane

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