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Stephen Crane described his novel of the American Civil War as a "psychological portrait of fear." Although he never experienced the horror of battle himself, Crane based his realistic narrative largely on stories told by Civil War veterans. While those accounts tended to focus on the external action of warfare, the young newspaper reporter aspired to illustrate the internal experience of the soldier. What does a man think and feel when he must kill or be killed? When in the chaos of battle will fear paralyze him or, worse, cause him to turn coward and run? In a sense, modern American fiction begins with Crane's masterful, impressionistic depiction of Private Henry Fleming under fire.