Focusing on Stephen Crane, this chapter examines the most politically charged and profoundly symbolic of American actions: the act of aiming and firing a gun. This act is linked to Crane's short story “The Five White Mice” that extends his analysis of chance, ostensibly through gambling. Expressing his opposition to traditional liberal theories of free will and self-control, Crane links the accurate execution of one's intentions with imperial violence and connects random, aimless shooting with a preferable mode of ruthless egalitarianism. Crane's interest in aimless shooting has its roots in actual developments in the history of firearms and resulting changes in their use in modern battles. His fiction may be interpreted in relation to a set of neglected rifle training manuals and military strategy papers from the turn of the century. His war stories address, and attempt to reconcile, two competing and precisely opposed theories of shooting that were influential at the time: shooting is either chancy or virtually chanceless.
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