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Americans for the most part live in a culture of release in which passion and spontaneity are worshipped. Beyond being told that troublesome feelings are medical problems, our young people receive scant instruction in modulating their emotions. As a result, there are very few opportunities to spar with heavyweight emotions such as anger and fear. In the ring, those passions constantly punch at you, but if you keep punching, you learn not to be pummeled by your emotions. Keeping your guard up when you feel like leaping out of the ring can be liberating. After he won his first bout, I asked Karl Pennau, a St. Olaf student whom I trained, what he had gleaned from his study of the sweet science. He replied, "Learning boxing has given me a lot more than just another sport to play. It is a tough, tough game, but having trained and been in the ring, I won't ever think that I can't do something again."
Reviews were generally positive and a respectable amount of volumes were sold, but it did not become a bestseller until an edition was published in England. By 1896 the novel had gone through nine editions and Crane himself realized he was no longer "a black sheep but a star." A reviewer in the New York Press wrote "one should be forever slow in charging an author with genius, but it must be confessed that The Red Badge of Courage is open to the suspicion of having greater power and originality that can be girdled by the name of talent." Joseph Conrad, the famous author of Heart of Darkness (1899), wrote that Crane had written "a spontaneous piece of work which seems to spurt and flow like a tapped stream from the depths of the writer's being." Some critics, including the writer Ambrose Bierce, attacked the novel for, among other things, being too imaginative, depicting soldiers poorly, and lacking in a coherent plot and grammatical/syntactical purity.