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.
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This sort of treachery generally contributes to the novel’s creation of a bewildering, malevolent world in which an unexpected blow can come at any time, reinforcing the novel’s characterization of the social effects of racial prejudice. Treachery also reinforces the ideas of blindness and invisibility, because any betrayal is essentially a sign that the betrayer willfully refuses to see his victim. Additionally, the novel’s betrayals function through deceit and secrecy—for the most part, they are invisible, and the narrator is blind to them until it is too late.