What an interesting tale! The descriptions of war are so realistic that one feels as if one were striding beside the youth, Henry, as he is baptized in battle. In his first experience he finds himself joining those who run from the conflict just to survive. He feels deep shame at his cowardice in this action and thinks deeply about it. The walking dead that he meets and sees in his mind haunt him. Perhaps it is his encounters with death and the wounded that help him face his action and return to his regiment. Or, perhaps it is the blow upon his head that a crazed and wounded man inflicts that brings him to his senses or gives him a bloody badge that he can say was caused by a bullet. Whatever it is Henry discovers the bond of wartime friendship, the thrill of the battle, and the wonder of defending his regiment. The horror of war is illustrated clearly and distinctly by Crane. It's a very good read.
There's a reason this book is a classic: it vividly brings to life an incredibly important event in American history. For this first time in history (it was published in 1895), an author portrayed war in a decidedly unromantic way. War is hell.
The Red Badge of Courage
This is a timeless and classic novel of warthe U.S. Civil Waras seen thought the eyes of a young lad who experiences the horror of battle for the first time. Fear, cowardice, braverythey're all here. One might compare it to Remarque's All Quiet On the Western Front.
Paired with The Red Badge of Courage is this very short tale of a survivor; a man who, once a coward, proved to be the only brave man in the end.
Novel about the Civil War based on newspaper accounts & research. From the back cover: Powerful psychological study of a young soldier's struggle wtih the horrors, within and without, that war unleashes will strike the listener with its undeniable realism...
Following its initial appearance in serial form, Stephen Cranes The Red Badge of Courage was published as a complete work in 1895 and quickly became the benchmark for modern anti-war literature.
Although the exact battle is never identified, Crane based this story of a soldiers experiences during the American Civil War on the 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville. Many veterans, both Union and Confederate, praised the books accurate representation of war, and critics consider its stylistic strength the mark of a literary classic.
AMAZON.COM BOOK DESCRIPTION
What can I say - It's a classic, on par with "All's Quiet on the Western Front."
The reality of war and battle and an individual's self assessment within that environment.
I believe this is required reading for all military personnel in leadership roles and rightfully so.
I read this book in high school and at that time I enjoyed it. Not exactly sure if being a Reader's Digest version has anything to do with it or if I happen to have a slight lapse of memory, but this book does not seem as graphically detailed as the one I remember reading inb HS. I enjoy re-reading some books and this is one that I will certainly read again. A fun read.
Allison W. reviewed The Red Badge of Courage (Tor Classics) on
The book itself, well, I guess I'm just not the deeply 'classical' kind - a boy goes to war, runs away from the fighting, feels bad, 'mans up' & fights, and feels good. the end. It goes on and on in 3rd person about 'the youth' - why did he even give him a name if he was going to call him 'the youth' 90% of the time? I'm glad I read/listened to it due to its prestige/historical value, but I'm pretty sure neither I nor any of my 3 kids will read it again...
Written of the Civil War, this is a powerful psychological study of a young soldier's struggle with the horrors, both within and without, that war unleashes, striking the reader with its undeniable realism and with its masterful description of the moment-by-moment riot of emotions felt by men under fire.
Stephen Crane takes great pains in creating a sensory experience that is unparallelled in war books for young adults. This classic is more than a coming of age tale. It is a parable of life and a fine example of literary excellence. I remember reading and loving it in school and each new reading exposes me to a memorable historical experience that I will never be able to witness any other way.
The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature: "Novel of the American Civil War by Stephen Crane, published in 1895 and considered to be his masterwork for its perceptive depiction of warfare and of the psychological turmoil of the soldier. Crane had had no experience of war when he wrote the novel, which he based partly on a popular anthology, Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. The Red Badge of Courage has been called the first modern war novel because, uniquely for its time, it tells of the experience of war from the point of view of an ordinary soldier. Henry Fleming is eager to demonstrate his patriotism in a glorious battle, but when the slaughter starts, he is overwhelmed with fear and flees the battlefield. Ironically, he receives his "red badge of courage" when he is slightly wounded by being struck on the head by a deserter. He witnesses a friend's gruesome death and becomes enraged at the injustice of war. The courage of common soldiers and the agonies of death cure him of his romantic notions. He returns to his regiment and continues to fight on with true courage and without illusions."
I enjoyed reading this book in highschool. Basically the premise is that courage is percieved. Very applicable to this day and time sending soldiers to two fronts. Some soldiers being conflicted and wanting to come home. Being scared to die for something you don't believe in and going AWOL during the Civil War. Short Book. You can finish in a day.
A review from Amazon.com:
"The Red Badge of Courage," written in 1895 by Stephen Crane (1871-1900), is considered by many literary critics to be one of the greatest of all American novels. This is a book about the Civil War, and one Union soldier's struggle with his inner demons as he prepares for, and fights his first battle.
Although the story Crane tells is deceptively simple, it reveals, better than any other novel I've read, the full horror of war, and the complexity and unpredictability of human behavior in the crucible of battle. Henry Fleming (always referred to by Crane as "the youth") is a young northerner who, despite his mother's objections, enlists in the Union army with great patriotic fervor. As he awaits his first battle, the youth ponders how he will react: will he stand and fight, or will he flee? The answer comes soon enough. His regiment is attacked by the Confederates; at first the youth stays to fight, but, during a second attack, he watches other soldiers run away from battle in a state of panic. He himself is overcome by fear, and he too flees.
The youth finally reaches a state of exhaustion and stops running. Immediately, his conscience begins to gnaw at him. He hears rumors that his regiment has actually stood and won the day against its foe. His thoughts and emotions begin to run the gamut from rationalization, to self-loathing, to fear of being discovered a coward. He continually looks for ways to justify his flight. The youth hears the continuing sound of battle in the distance, and is drawn to it, almost as a moth to a flame; he decides to return to his regiment, but loses his way. As he tries to find his way back to his regiment, he is confronted by people who serve to prick his conscience even further. He witnesses the horrible death of Jim Conklin, one of his friends from his regiment. While walking with a group of wounded soldiers, he is asked by one tattered and probably insane soldier what the nature of his wounds are. Shamed by this inquisition, he runs away, afraid he'll be uncovered as the poltroon he is beginning to believe himself to be. He begins to wish for a "red badge of courage" - a wound - which would signify his bravery in battle. He gets his wish in a roundabout way when he attempts to ask another soldier for directions. He gets into a scuffle and is cut on the head with the soldier's rifle. This becomes his "red badge" when he finally makes it back to his unit; he lies to his comrades-in-arms, saying he received the wound as a result of being shot in the heat of battle.
Ultimately, the youth is afforded another opportunity to prove his courage in battle. How he reacts under fire during this new test of his character and courage is the great climactic event of "The Red Badge of Courage." Henry's behavior reveals the lessons he has learned about himself , and shows how he is able to come to terms with his inner demons and the world around him as a result of those lessons.
Crane's writing is excellent on most levels. His descriptions of the insane violence of battle is graphically intense, and of reasonable historical accuracy. The one noticeable weakness in Crane's style is his dialogue. Although it is raw and gritty, it is also somewhat unrealistic; all his characters sound like they have southern accents, even though they are supposed to be from New York and other northern states. Still, the dialogue is effective in conveying the essential truth of who did most of the fighting on both sides during the Civil War: tough, profane, and often poor and uneducated men, many who did not know of, or care about, the causes for which they fought and sometimes died.
In my view, what sets "The Red Badge of Courage" apart as one of the finest Civil War novels of all time is Crane's brilliant analysis of Henry Fleming's state of mind as he runs away from battle and then attempts to redeem himself. Through Crane's lively pen and sometimes purple prose, I was able to peer into the youth's very soul and understand some of his fears, hopes, intermittent self loathing, and frequent rationalizations, and how those emotions and attitudes drove his behavior during battle. Henry Fleming is certainly not an admirable protagonist! (This may, in fact, have been the first Civil War novel which depicts the central character in less than an idealistic, "knightly" fashion.) He is immature, vain, shallow, and mendacious throughout the book, but is also imbued with an inner strength and the self-discipline which allow him ultimately to triumph over his many character flaws.
"The Red Badge of Courage" is indeed a timeless masterpiece of American fiction. It is easy to understand why it ranks alongside such great American novels as Harriet Beecher Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin," John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," and "To Kill a Mockingbird," by Harper Lee. "The Red Badge of Courage" is a book to be read and savored!
Seeing as how it is often cited as a sterling example of a nineteenth-century American classic, I kind of agree with many of the reviewers who said that they feel "guilty" about how much they disliked this book. It certainly isn't one of my favorites, but I also appreciate it as a product of its time. I can also definitely see why it's frequently used essentially as an academic exercise, as there's a lot to critique. My review will be fairly short, as there are student papers all over the internet that delve into detail about its flaws and merits.
The action takes place over the course of a couple of days, so the whole piece, which is fairly short, feels like a "coming of age" tale that occurs in that brief window of time, under admittedly horrific circumstances. Young Henry, bored, naive, and full of youthful vitality and a sense of invincibility, enlists in the army, against his widowed mother's wishes, with no inkling of what he is about to undertake. It helps if one is familiar with some of the history of the Civil War in this regard, as the bravado of so many young men enamored of the heroic feat of "going off to fight" served as a prime mover in the push for war. The novel would have been much more successful if the author had explored this facet in greater depth.
The perceived glory of battle blinded so many to the brutal reality of actual warfare that for many of the engagements of the war, it was common for spectators to show up to witness the "excitement" firsthand. I've seen descriptions of people, including ladies dressed in their finery, picnicking on the fields near where the battles were taking place, but I admittedly can't find a reference. Young Henry likewise succumbs to this mentality, but experiences a very rude awakening in the physicality of soldiering, in the endless marching and privation, but to an even greater degree shortly after the first shots are fired.
The bulk of the text explores Henry's psychological state in the wake of events which occurred during the Battle of Chancellorsville, a brutal engagement which resulted in tens of thousands of casualties. The central event is Henry's flight from the action when the fighting becomes too intense, and his immense shame in abandoning his comrades when he realizes what he has done. In that light, the premise of the whole story seems to ask whether one can be both courageous and a coward, and the intersection between wisdom, self-preservation, loyalty and cowardice. The author sets the scene in the opening lines with Henry wondering if he will be brave or cowardly in the face of battle, which reaches a crescendo in his flight.
The rest of the narrative explores how the main character, frequently referred to as "the youth," conceives his actions, especially when, after wandering aimlessly in relative safety, he encounters a group of severely wounded and dying men, those actually injured in battle, one of them a friend, whose excruciating, protracted death affects him deeply. After witnessing his friend's demise, Henry encounters another group of retreating Union men, one of whom wounds him in the head, thereby giving him his "red badge of courage," a war wound. As it was not actually inflicted by the enemy, however, he lies about its real cause to his comrades, thereby claiming the honor he covets deceptively. Henry rebounds, however, and later fights valiantly, earning the honor he has been bestowed by his fellows, no longer having to live a lie.
Although it certainly had potential, and definitely has some merits, the whole premise of this book is rather juvenile, in my opinion. I read it a good many years ago, in my youth, but recently re-read it, as it was in a box of books someone gave me, and my opinion of it didn't really improve. I have to say that I didn't grow any more fond of it than when I had to read it for a school assignment. One of its merits, admittedly, is the level of detail in the description of the scenes and events. The author more than capably describes the sights, sounds, smells, and horrors of battle, including details which are truly chilling, such as the insects crawling over the face of one of the thousands of casualties, which horrifies Henry and the rest of us.
It attempts to explore the psychological state of its protagonist, but, not terribly successfully, primarily because much of the content related to the perception of war is rather overwrought. The prose, at times artfully crafted and descriptive, is frequently jejune and puerile. The author seems to be describing his own perceptions of what war must be like, but from afar. He attempts to project the readers into the fray, but is only marginally successful. The story frequently lags and the lack of character development limits the ability of readers to truly empathize with them, which is particularly critical when exploring the complexities of abstract concepts like bravery and cowardice.
I do acknowledge its historical value, however, having been written only a few decades after the end of the war, but it is clear from this work and others like it, many of them even more sensationalistic, that it was already being romanticized, based more on vivid imagination than reality. This book does convey the idea that war is hell, but only just - it just simply misses the mark, unfortunately. Despite its potential and the clear talent of its author, the primary feeling the reader is left with is: missed opportunity.