A "Reg'lar Jim Dandy": Archiving Ecstatic Performance in Stephen Crane

Lindsay V. Reckson
2012 Arizona Quarterly: A Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory  
R oughly mid-way through stephen crane 's 1895 novel The Red Badge of Courage, we witness the unfolding of an intensely peculiar post-mortem: The tattered man stood musing. "Well, he was reg'lar jim-dandy fer nerve, wa'n't he," said he finally in a little awestruck voice. "A reg'lar jim-dandy." He thoughtfully poked one of the docile hands with his foot. "I wonner where he got 'is stren'th from? I never seen a man do like that before. It was a funny thing. Well, he was a reg'lar jim-dandy."
more » ... The anonymous tattered man stands poking at the corpse of Jim Conklin, whose death he has just witnessed alongside the novel's protagonist, Henry Fleming. The scene is peculiar, but also not particularly unique in the novel; as critics have long noted, Red Badge is seeped in the thematic and formal visibility of death, in the stakes of death's imaginative visualizations and in its halting, repetitive appearances in the narrative. Fleeting examinations of corpses-casual touches and long lookspunctuate the novel, itself an 1895 post-mortem of the American Civil War that it obliquely reproduces. So like death more generally, and like the particular deaths in Red Badge, this scene archives what we know to be a "regular," repetitive event as much as it calls attention to the singular strangeness of death's arrival at any particular moment, its status as a "funny thing." Repeatedly translating "Jim" as character into a "reg'lar
doi:10.1353/arq.2012.0000 fatcat:crxbdxgikzerxje4225kera6cu