Stephen Crane (1871-1900) is the first Modern (i.e., 20th Century) American Novelist (those people who write the Great American Novels - the "GAN" of each era), and "The Red Badge of Courage" (1894-1895) is the First GAN of the 20th Century -- ignore the dates; the 20th Century began with the War in Cuba. This novel says more about how 20th Century America will think about itself (please pardon the anthropomorphic attitude) than almost any other book written in that time. The story is not a difficult one to read and it moves quickly from beginning to end; but prepare to take it in one sitting (142 pp.). A definite must-read. Included are three additional stories: "the Open Boat"; "The Veteran"; and "The Men In The Storm" (all 1894-1897); as well as Biography; Endnotes; Inspirations; Comments And Questions; and Reading List.
With this novel [I didn't bother to read the short stories after slogging through the initial short novel] it seems that the author projects his own fears, doubts, and general overall cowardice into a situation that he has no experience with.