Short Story #229: An Experiment in Misery by Stephen Crane

Title:  An Experiment in Misery

Author:  Stephen Crane


Picture of Stephen Crane.  Source: young man wanders the dark rainy in search of food or shelter.  Upon seeing a bar offering free soup, he enters.  Before taking seconds, he goes out into the night to talk with a man whom he believes will know a place to sleep.  The man identifies where the young man can sleep for 10 cents for the night but the young man believes that's too much.  A third man approaches who looks more wild than the other two and asks if they can spare two cents becuase he has five and can get a bed for 7.  After some discussion, the young man says that he'll help the crazy-looking man get the additional money, if he'll tell the young man where they can find this establishment.  The man leads him down an alley and into the place where they will be staying.  As they wander through the place, the smell and sights strike at the young man.  People lay around in various states of dress with various ailments--many with the look of death about them.  They spend the night and in the morning while wandering around, the young man tells the older one that he saw someone last night with a white nightshirt on.  The older man doesn't believe him but the young man insists.  As they wander, they pass a breakfast place and the young man decides to have breakfast.  The older man starts to pout and part ways but the young one treats him to breakfast.  They banter about their lives, jobs, and propsects.  The two retire to the park to hang out with others.  Here, the young man watches society as society ignores him and determines if he must resort to crime in order to aspire hire in life. 


It's a rather dark and depressing tale that Crane spins.  The contrast of the young man's life with the wealth of the city around him can be tasted.  Crane provides beautiful descriptions and contrasts between the world of the poor and the rich.  He also has some great lines in this story ("It was so profound that it was unintelligible.").  It seems to me that this trip that Crane is taking is a porthole for the readers to better understand the faceless entities they pass each day.  

Short Story #229 out of 365
Rating: 3 (out of 5 stars)
Date Read:  7/20/2014
Source:  The short story can be found at this website.  

For a full listing of all the short stories in this series, check out the category 365 Short Stories a year.

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