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The Red Badge of CourageThe Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, Fiction, Classics, Historical, Military & Wars

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The novel is known for its distinctive style, which includes realistic battle sequences as well as the repeated use of color imagery, and ironic tone. Separating itself from a traditional war narrative, Crane's story reflects the inner experience of its protagonist (a soldier fleeing from combat) rather than the external world around him.


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The novel is known for its distinctive style, which includes realistic battle sequences as well as the repeated use of color imagery, and ironic tone. Separating itself from a traditional war narrative, Crane's story reflects the inner experience of its protagonist (a soldier fleeing from combat) rather than the external world around him.

30 review for The Red Badge of CourageThe Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, Fiction, Classics, Historical, Military & Wars

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I feel almost guilty about how much I disliked this book. I know it's an important piece of literature, that it changed the way people viewed war, it's an American classic, etc. etc. But I could NOT stand it. I thought it was boring and I didn't really care what happened to the main character. I was totally distracted by how the author called him "the youth" instead of his name and I had to have my brother-in-law explain to me what the point of it was since I just couldn't tell. Maybe my tastes I feel almost guilty about how much I disliked this book. I know it's an important piece of literature, that it changed the way people viewed war, it's an American classic, etc. etc. But I could NOT stand it. I thought it was boring and I didn't really care what happened to the main character. I was totally distracted by how the author called him "the youth" instead of his name and I had to have my brother-in-law explain to me what the point of it was since I just couldn't tell. Maybe my tastes will mature someday, but I wouldn't count on it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Henry Avila

    The Battle of Chancellorsville in northern Virginia 1863 is one of the bloodiest 24,000 casualties of the war between the states, the focus of this novel. Henry Fleming a naive restless farm boy not yet a man from New York State, goes off to fight during the American Civil War. Against the tearful pleading of his widowed mother not to, Henry out of patriotism or boredom wants to join the Union Army. Many months pass of training and marching before Fleming gets into action. Some of his friends, The Battle of Chancellorsville in northern Virginia 1863 is one of the bloodiest 24,000 casualties of the war between the states, the focus of this novel. Henry Fleming a naive restless farm boy not yet a man from New York State, goes off to fight during the American Civil War. Against the tearful pleading of his widowed mother not to, Henry out of patriotism or boredom wants to join the Union Army. Many months pass of training and marching before Fleming gets into action. Some of his friends, boys he grew up with are in the 304th regiment with him. Camp life is very harsh living mostly in dirty tents little food and nothing to do, unsanitary living conditions, the constant marching to different sites; the veterans call the newcomers "Fresh Fish". Wondering if he'll be brave or a coward in the conflict dominates his thoughts, finally the youth sees the ugly war. The charging yelling mobs of rebels from out of the woods brings fear to his very soul and Fleming caring little about glory, his friends or the regiment runs away , runs like the little boy he really is only just wants to survive...Meeting many wounded soldiers in the back of the line. Some who will not live long, including his close friend who Fleming watches fall mortally down on the ground, they ask him uncomfortable questions where was he hit ?...Leaving them as fast an unobtrusively as possible, wandering around aimlessly Henry heads for a nearby forest trying to get away from the savage war. The sounds of brutal battle are muted by the trees only a short distance from the struggle, as if all the world was a peaceful quiet place, a sanctuary for him to calm his shaky nerves. But Henry can't get far from reality, a Union soldier propped up against a tree stares with his dead eyes at the miserable deserter. An insect crawling over his ghastly face, Henry decides to get back to his regiment yet ironically is hit in the head, with a rifle butt by a vicious man fleeing in a blue uniform, Fleming was in the way, causing blood to flow freely... His desired " Red Badge of Courage"... Arriving home helped by an unknown soldier nobody had noticed his cowardliness they thought he was dead, bandaged his "war wound". Next day another scrimmage Fleming feels different, comradeship with his fellow soldiers close as brothers now Henry never experienced such emotions before, even leads the charge has he become a man ?

  3. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    2.5 stars Intellectual Thomas thinks this story changed people's perception of war and made them think about the individual psychological processes involved in combat. He thinks that this book had a nice flow of thought that concluded with the narrator learning to be less whiny. Thomas Thomas - the college-student Thomas that has almost no free time to read for fun, and therefore only wants to read satisfying books - feels that The Red Badge of Courage was super frustrating in that its author, 2.5 stars Intellectual Thomas thinks this story changed people's perception of war and made them think about the individual psychological processes involved in combat. He thinks that this book had a nice flow of thought that concluded with the narrator learning to be less whiny. Thomas Thomas - the college-student Thomas that has almost no free time to read for fun, and therefore only wants to read satisfying books - feels that The Red Badge of Courage was super frustrating in that its author, Stephen Crane, clearly had never gone to war before writing this book. Thus, the novel's imagery and overall characterization of the narrator came across as juvenile and simplistic. Thomas Thomas regrets that he has nothing novel to contribute about The Red Badge of Courage, and he apologizes for using the third person to entertain himself enough to complete this review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    matt

    This book made my heart race and made me hear gunfire. I think Crane manages to create the perfect visceral novel. Sure there is symbolism if you want it, but at its core this book is about experience. Like a delicate flower, this book is easily ruined by too much prodding attention. Just read it, take it in, let yourself get dragged into the story and imagery. Don't think, don't read it closely to prepare for a paper or discussion, just experience it. I would never teach this book in a class. I This book made my heart race and made me hear gunfire. I think Crane manages to create the perfect visceral novel. Sure there is symbolism if you want it, but at its core this book is about experience. Like a delicate flower, this book is easily ruined by too much prodding attention. Just read it, take it in, let yourself get dragged into the story and imagery. Don't think, don't read it closely to prepare for a paper or discussion, just experience it. I would never teach this book in a class. I would just mention it as one of my favorites and possibly leave a few copies around.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Duane

    Most novels about war are broad, sweeping stories that try to capture the big picture of what happened. But what's it like for the individual? What were they thinking, feeling, and experiencing? That's what Stephen Crane brings to life in this book. He shows the fine line between courage and cowardice that exists in everyone. An American classic that has never been out of print. Revised December 2017.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane The Red Badge of Courage is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane (1871–1900). Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound, a "red badge of courage," to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer, who carries a flag. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1998 The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane The Red Badge of Courage is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane (1871–1900). Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound, a "red badge of courage," to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer, who carries a flag. تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1998 میلادی عنوان: نشان سرخ دلیری؛ نویسنده: استیفن کرین؛ مترجم: غفور آلبا؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، 1335، در 245 ص عنوان: نشان سرخ دلیری (متن کوتاه شده)؛ نویسنده: استیفن کرین؛ مترجم: جعفر مدرس صادقی؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، نشر مرکز، 1374، در 157 ص نشان سرخ دلیری رمانی رئالیستی و جنگی است که به اعتقاد صاحب نظران نقطه ی اوج خلاقیت، و شاهکار بی نظیر استیفن کرین است، ماندگاری و شهرت آن گواه مدعاست، از عجایب روزگار این که در جایی خواندم، استیفن کرین، در زمان نگارش کتاب، هیچ جنگی به چشم خود ندیده بود. مطالعه ی جنگ و صلح تولستوی و دیدن عکس هایی از جنگ داخلی امریکا و نیروی تخیل قوی نویسنده کافی بوده گویا، کتاب یکی از بهترین رمان های رئالیستی جنگی دنیاست. ا. شربیانی

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Albro

    I found it disappointing that The Red Badge of Courage, an American classic, was dull, had poor pacing, and lackluster characterization. There might be historical value in this novel, written by Stephen Crane who was born nearly five years after America’s civil war ended, but there is little to enjoy. The novel does focus on the psyche of the protagonist – more so then on the war itself, but I found myself not caring. I didn’t care for the characters nor did I care about the battles or the war. I found it disappointing that The Red Badge of Courage, an American classic, was dull, had poor pacing, and lackluster characterization. There might be historical value in this novel, written by Stephen Crane who was born nearly five years after America’s civil war ended, but there is little to enjoy. The novel does focus on the psyche of the protagonist – more so then on the war itself, but I found myself not caring. I didn’t care for the characters nor did I care about the battles or the war. I told myself that I would give the novel a fair review only by reading it in its entirety, which led me to gloss over the last few chapters as to end the torture. I debated giving two stars as there was one scene that I noted as compelling – the scene where Henry Fleming watches Jim Conklin struggle to continue marching while Jim is dying of wounds from the battle. This was a moment where Henry experiences firsthand that war is hell. However, one powerful scene cannot resurrect this lifeless corpse of a book. I pity the High School student that is assigned this book and question the teacher that does the assigning.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Moses Kilolo

    When Henry Flemming set off to join the war, he perhaps did not have a clear picture of what lay before him, what his decision meant. Like every other young man (across the divide of time and circumstance) he envisions his return as a hero - an achieved man. but does he pause to consider the damn hardship of the battlefield? Perhaps not! At some point he actually runs, but his conscience torments him. A series of happenings (accidental- i think) push him back to track, and there he tries to When Henry Flemming set off to join the war, he perhaps did not have a clear picture of what lay before him, what his decision meant. Like every other young man (across the divide of time and circumstance) he envisions his return as a hero - an achieved man. but does he pause to consider the damn hardship of the battlefield? Perhaps not! At some point he actually runs, but his conscience torments him. A series of happenings (accidental- i think) push him back to track, and there he tries to prove his manhood. I find that the power of this war novel is not really in the story, but in how it is rendered. Crane's prose (though at some point overly descriptive) is to the large extend exquisite. So also his portrayals of the internal conflict of this youth. The Language is beautiful, and makes this, a not so simple and straightforward novel, a worthy read. Cool line: He turned now with a lover's thirst to images of tranquil skies, fresh meadows, cool brooks - an existence of soft and eternal peace.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    Here is a recreation of my brain while reading this book: "Alright, it's about time I read this and so far, okay. I like the prose, I like the prose, I like the...um...STOP TALKING! Stop talking to each other! Shutup! I can barely understand you! UGH. Thank you. Nice prose...nice...okay, nevermind. Boring. Boring. Boring. Boring. Gross. I hate fight scenes. Boring AND gross. Gross AND boring. Stop fighting. Stop talking. Get on with it...this is boring..." Overall, I'd have to say that the Here is a recreation of my brain while reading this book: "Alright, it's about time I read this and so far, okay. I like the prose, I like the prose, I like the...um...STOP TALKING! Stop talking to each other! Shutup! I can barely understand you! UGH. Thank you. Nice prose...nice...okay, nevermind. Boring. Boring. Boring. Boring. Gross. I hate fight scenes. Boring AND gross. Gross AND boring. Stop fighting. Stop talking. Get on with it...this is boring..." Overall, I'd have to say that the dialogue between the characters was a little too realistic and I found it difficult to switch between Crane's lovely prose and the uneducated, written dialect of the Union soldiers (or sojers, depending on who you ask). The last time I remember struggling so much with written dialogue was when I read Beloved by Toni Morrison, except in the case for that book, I was utterly enchanted by the characters and this time around...??? Not so much. So in all, it became an issue of not caring enough to WANT to understand what they were saying. Also, I hate battle scenes and fight scenes. I generally skim or skip fight scenes in almost all the books I've ever read (the one exception probably being Gabaldon's description of Culloden in Dragonfly in Amber) because I don't LIKE to picture gore. I'm not comfortable with violence, real or imagined because it gives me nightmares. I don't read or watch horror that involves excessive amounts of blood pouring out of bodies and pooling on the ground and/our punching people out and whenever my husband watches a war movie, I have to cover my eyes during the battle scenes. Unfortunately, 80% of this book WAS a battle scene or related to battle in some way, shape or form so I couldn't skim. The fight scenes bothered me and the parts that weren't about battle were boring. I have no desire to read this particular classic ever again.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    Tolstoi made the writing of Stephen Crane on the Civil War seem like the brilliant imagining of a sick boy who had never seen war but had only read the battles and chronicles and seen the Brandy photographs that I had read and seen at my grandparents’ house. —Ernest Hemingway I think Hemingway’s quote sums up the book pretty well. The Red Badge of Courage was written when Crane had never seen battle; it is the product of a young man’s imagination (he was only in his early twenties), trying to Tolstoi made the writing of Stephen Crane on the Civil War seem like the brilliant imagining of a sick boy who had never seen war but had only read the battles and chronicles and seen the Brandy photographs that I had read and seen at my grandparents’ house. —Ernest Hemingway I think Hemingway’s quote sums up the book pretty well. The Red Badge of Courage was written when Crane had never seen battle; it is the product of a young man’s imagination (he was only in his early twenties), trying to vividly capture the experience of war. As a result, the story has elements of both realism and impressionism; it alternates in a space between dream and reality, seeming by turns prosaic and surreal. It is a decidedly well done piece of writing, though I can’t see it evoking much feeling in modern readers. The prose is stylish and forceful; the dialogue is consistently good; the portrayal of the protagonist’s emotional state is done with skill. Still, all told, it does feel a bit more like a writing exercise than a piece of literature. I can imagine the young Crane setting himself the challenge of mentally constructing a battle as vividly as possible, feverishly writing down his daydreams. For such a young man, the writing is done with considerable polish and verve; it’s a shame he died so early. If you listen carefully, you can hear aspects of both Hemingway and Steinbeck presaged in this work. At the time, writing battles this way—as a phantasmagoric sequence of images—wasn’t really done; and since its publication, the book has had a tremendous influence. I think one of the reasons a modern reader will feel numb to its charms is that this book had a huge influence on the modern war movie. As in so many cinematic battles, the political and strategic aspects are deemphasized completely, leaving only the soldier with his gun, his guts, and bullets whirring all around him. It’s a shame Crane didn’t live longer; this is no masterpiece, but it shows enormous potential.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Betsy

    I read this book for Banned Books Week. Why it would be banned for violence (It is a war novel.) or because Stephen Crane was born after the war, and supposedly couldn't have known about war (???) so was showing 'disrespect' to veterans, just shows how ludicrous the banning of books can be. The first half of the book is rather disappointing as we learn about Henry Fleming's philosophical 'insights' on war and his fellow soldiers. His arrogance is laughable, especially his assertion that he ran I read this book for Banned Books Week. Why it would be banned for violence (It is a war novel.) or because Stephen Crane was born after the war, and supposedly couldn't have known about war (???) so was showing 'disrespect' to veterans, just shows how ludicrous the banning of books can be. The first half of the book is rather disappointing as we learn about Henry Fleming's philosophical 'insights' on war and his fellow soldiers. His arrogance is laughable, especially his assertion that he ran away for the 'right' reason while his fellow solidiers stayed and fought for the wrong reasons. After some escapades, which inadvertently give him 'a red badge of courage', Henry returns to his regiment, the 304th. This is when the book begins to improve, in my opinion. Henry becomes a hero, at least in his eyes, as he carries the flag, and fights with his regiment. Philosophy has taken a backseat to reality. Crane was a master of beautiful descriptions. The words might be picturesque, but it is hard to believe that fighting for your life gave you the time and motivation to consider them in such detail. Maybe when you are an older man, writing your memoirs, you might indulge yourself. Unfortunately, Stephen Crane did not have that chance after observing the Spanish-American War because he died at the age of 28.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Sticherus

    So, hey. There's this guy. His name's Henry, but that's not really important. He really wanted to join the army, cuz, well, that's what all the cool kids were doing. So he did. And hey, who doesn't wanna blow shit up? I know I'd wanna blow shit up. Everybody loves blowing shit up. Anyway, so yeah. That happened. They all sat around for a while, and then there was this one fight, and then there was this other fight, and some stuff happened. Nothing to get excited about. And oh yeah, after that So, hey. There's this guy. His name's Henry, but that's not really important. He really wanted to join the army, cuz, well, that's what all the cool kids were doing. So he did. And hey, who doesn't wanna blow shit up? I know I'd wanna blow shit up. Everybody loves blowing shit up. Anyway, so yeah. That happened. They all sat around for a while, and then there was this one fight, and then there was this other fight, and some stuff happened. Nothing to get excited about. And oh yeah, after that there was this other thing. And now, I'm gonna describe the way the MAGNIFICENT SUNBEAMS HIT THIS BEAUTIFUL SHARD OF DECAYING, MAGGOT-INFESTED TREE BARK IN GLORIOUSLY POETIC DETAIL. Y'know. Because this is a good book, and they do that kind of thing in those. ...Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. I hate this book. I really do. Maybe I missed something, but I found no emotion, dimension, or depth in it whatsoever. And maybe that makes me ignorant, but hey, so be it. I had to force my way through this droning, monotonous mess just so I could then be made to write a paper on how supposedly brilliant/amazing I thought it was. I guess I can respect it for what it is, but personally, I'm just thankful that it was a quick read.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tara Ferrin

    I actually finally finished the book last night. I say finally not because I didn't enjoy it, because I did, but it definitely was a tougher read than I'm used. The language is older more descriptive, and at times hard to figure out, but in the end I think it made me appreciate it more. I'm not going to pretend that I understood even half of what the author was trying to say, but It did affect me, and spoke to me personally at times. In my opinion he's a brilliant writer. It's a story of a very I actually finally finished the book last night. I say finally not because I didn't enjoy it, because I did, but it definitely was a tougher read than I'm used. The language is older more descriptive, and at times hard to figure out, but in the end I think it made me appreciate it more. I'm not going to pretend that I understood even half of what the author was trying to say, but It did affect me, and spoke to me personally at times. In my opinion he's a brilliant writer. It's a story of a very young and inexperienced soldier in the civil war named Henry. It tells of his inward struggles finding courage and making sense of this terrible thing called war. It is disturbing at times to read some of the horrors he describes, not because it's graphic, but just emotionally heart wrenching. I love this paragraph: "As he gazed around him, the youth(Henry) felt a flash of astonishment at the blue pure sky and the sun-gleamings on the trees and fields. It was surprising that nature had gone tranquilly on with her golden processes in the midst of so much devilment." After reading this, I could really feel myself in his shoes. Here he is in this captivatingly beautiful place, listening to the stream running by and the birds singing, how can life go so peaceably on for nature, when something so horrible and ugly as war is raging at the same time. It was sad to read how insignificant he felt at times, his lieutenant called his regiment a bunch of slow "mule-drivers" and sent them off to charge the enemy stating that few would make their way back. How would that feel? Like being sent off as one of the unimportant masses to be slaughtered for the greater good. I can't imagine. I hope our soldiers understand how important they are not just collectively. but individually. They are each heros to me, for just being there. I loved this novel. It wasn't an easy read for me, but it was worth it. side note: I read the New Edition, it's I guess the complete edition restored from the author's original manuscript. The version first published and the one most people are familiar with is supposedly different. " It was altered in many key passages and an entire chapter was removed in order to make it a simpler, less realistic picture of war-more acceptable to the readers of the time." As stated on the back of my book. Hope you enjoy!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Since I'm heading into a WWI segment, I thought I might take the opportunity to backtrack and cover this other nominee for "Best War Novel Ever." Only takes a few minutes anyway, right? The first half is pretty amazing. Crane deals with the concept of cowardice unflinchingly and with a ton of psychological insight. The way he describes exactly what's going on in his protagonist's head, minute by minute...this is pretty great stuff. (Amazingly, btw, Stephen Crane never saw a minute of combat.) I Since I'm heading into a WWI segment, I thought I might take the opportunity to backtrack and cover this other nominee for "Best War Novel Ever." Only takes a few minutes anyway, right? The first half is pretty amazing. Crane deals with the concept of cowardice unflinchingly and with a ton of psychological insight. The way he describes exactly what's going on in his protagonist's head, minute by minute...this is pretty great stuff. (Amazingly, btw, Stephen Crane never saw a minute of combat.) I think it loses a little juice in the second half, which deals with bravery; I didn't feel like our hero's change of heart was explained terribly well. Still a pretty impressive book, though.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Wolfman

    Stephen Crane died at the turn of the century in his late 20's, making him a rock star. I bet all of the college kids in the 1910's and 20's had posters of him on their walls. Or maybe portraits. There isn't that much time in The Red Badge of Courage for you to get too attached to any characters, not even our hero The Youth, Henry Fleming. But you can totally empathize with his Desire to do Something Grand, his fear, his sense of accomplishment, and generally fickle human nature. Plus, Stephen Stephen Crane died at the turn of the century in his late 20's, making him a rock star. I bet all of the college kids in the 1910's and 20's had posters of him on their walls. Or maybe portraits. There isn't that much time in The Red Badge of Courage for you to get too attached to any characters, not even our hero The Youth, Henry Fleming. But you can totally empathize with his Desire to do Something Grand, his fear, his sense of accomplishment, and generally fickle human nature. Plus, Stephen Crane can totally turn a wicked awesome phrase, like, whenever he wants. You can't teach that. It's a gift. Nurture your gifts, kids.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Faith

    DNF. Read through chapter 2. I just...I'm legit so bored, y'all. I cannot do this. Worst classic I've ever read/tried to read and that's saying something. (My amazing teacher is letting me swap and read a different classic in place of this one. Thanks, Mom. <3)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    I always seem to write reviews for books I love. That really is a tragedy, because books I hated should be acknowledged here too. This review is a warning to all. Especially the younger set that may still encounter this book in school. If you have a choice, do not read this book, sometimes they offer an array of books to chose from. I am still baffled at how this book was ever deemed a good choice for use in schools. It is the most boring and painful book I have ever read, to this day, and I read I always seem to write reviews for books I love. That really is a tragedy, because books I hated should be acknowledged here too. This review is a warning to all. Especially the younger set that may still encounter this book in school. If you have a choice, do not read this book, sometimes they offer an array of books to chose from. I am still baffled at how this book was ever deemed a good choice for use in schools. It is the most boring and painful book I have ever read, to this day, and I read it back in 9th grade. It has left that much of an impression on me for how awful it is. It was my own fault. It was for a project and I liked to read and so I picked this book. The book is short, but that doesn't make it go by any faster. Essentially the story of a young soldier in the civil war, and that's the entire plot. I mean, there HAVE to be much more engaging and interesting books out there about the civil war that are relevent to a history course. Maybe the fact that I'm not a great fan of civil war history worked against me (so I've never sought out an alteranative book). One could even go so far as to say this book potentially ruined my relationship with American history in the 1800's. Though the torture of having to read Quaker sermons in college did not extinguished an interest in colonial America. Maybe those reinactment buffs out there think this book is the bomb. I don't know. Either way, I loathed this book when I had to read it, and if it's assigned as required reading in class for either of my children I will send a note requesting alternate material be used, as I think this book is a waste of brain power. (BTW, as a parent, you have a right to do that for any book, in case anyone ever needed to know that tidbit) Consider yourself warned.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    “It was not well to drive men into final corners; at those moments they could all develop teeth and claws.” ― Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage Probably 3.25 stars. Bonus points for the fact that Crane elevated war novels to a more modern level, but doesn't quite measure up quite to Conrad, Tolstoy or Remarque. Maybe, maaaaaybe, 4 stars as a novel and 3 stars as a war novel.

  19. 5 out of 5

    carl theaker

    Required Senior High reading, rather poignant with Vietnam going on at the time. Additionally we watched the Audie Murphy version of the movie.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Stenwjohnson

    There is surprisingly little 19th century American fiction that describes the Civil War combat experience. Contemporaneous memoirs, poems, and histories abound, but Ambrose Bierce’s short stories and Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage” are likely the most prominent examples of literary war narratives from that century. Both are remarkable for their combination of stylized lyricism and brutal, near-cynical unsentimentality. Bierce was a seasoned war veteran but Crane was only 24 when his There is surprisingly little 19th century American fiction that describes the Civil War combat experience. Contemporaneous memoirs, poems, and histories abound, but Ambrose Bierce’s short stories and Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage” are likely the most prominent examples of literary war narratives from that century. Both are remarkable for their combination of stylized lyricism and brutal, near-cynical unsentimentality. Bierce was a seasoned war veteran but Crane was only 24 when his novel was published to commercial and critical success in 1896. Ironically, Bierce was one of its few detractors. The title of “Red Badge” deceptively suggests conventional, portentous themes of honor and valor, which are reliably de rigueur in war fiction. Crane’s performance both satisfies and subverts expectations: This is one of the most atypical and atmospheric war novels ever written. As the novel opens, young recruit Henry Fleming (referred to as “The Youth”) waits for action in his encampment, the kind of purgatorial semi-permanent collection of tents captured in scores of Mathew Brady photographs. In this brief respite, Fleming reflects abstractly on the combat experience, and he’s soon tested as his regiment moves into battle. What follows borders on prose poetry. Crane's narrative takes a densely rhetorical and descriptive turn, capturing a profound introspection as the novel transforms into an evocative, unbroken battle sequence in a nameless landscape. Like Shelby Foote’s “Shiloh,” which must owe at least a subconscious debt to Crane, Henry fights in a swirl of surreal chaos that provokes a torrent of inward reflection in dramatic synchronicity with Crane’s seemingly continuous evocation of fog, smoke, and any other imaginable form of airborne detritus. The turmoil of battle ebbs and flows, with victory or defeat virtually unknowable in the bedlam of combat; when violence periodically subsides, there is little empirical agreement on what has occurred or whether the regiment has achieved success. Crane wisely keeps this dense, unremitting novel short. This is a controlled, mature performance from a writer who tragically died only four years after its publication. Based on this work and the great short story “The Open Boat,” he might have produced an unqualified masterpiece. “The Red Badge of Courage” remains a remarkable artifact.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    Read this book right before I went into the Army; helped me focus and understand that courage can take different forms at different times. If you know a young man/woman entering the military may I suggest this book for them - they will thank you.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marquise

    Can't believe the author of this short novel never saw battle in his life, like it's explained in the introduction, because his understanding of the psychology of a combatant is so remarkable that I'd have sworn he was a Civil War veteran drawing from his own experiences. Goes to show what good research and an eye for observing human nature in conflict can do, methinks. Not being American, I had to look up on the web what battle the book was describing after I finished reading, and having learnt Can't believe the author of this short novel never saw battle in his life, like it's explained in the introduction, because his understanding of the psychology of a combatant is so remarkable that I'd have sworn he was a Civil War veteran drawing from his own experiences. Goes to show what good research and an eye for observing human nature in conflict can do, methinks. Not being American, I had to look up on the web what battle the book was describing after I finished reading, and having learnt it's based on the Battle of Chancellorsville, it now makes sense why the action was all such a prolonged clash and so chaotic in the novel. It also helped to explain the fact that Henry himself is all over the place. Now, looking at photos like this one of the 110th Pennsylvania Regiment in that battle, it's easy to imagine those infantrymen could be Henry's "fresh fish" comrades, that the mounted officer is the one who derisively called them "mule drivers," and that the one standing by the side is the baby-faced Lieutenant of the company.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kellyn Roth

    Finished this book wishing the main character would just die. Just really hated him. Like, it's been a while since I've hated a character as much as I hated this one. I was just sitting there hoping he'd blow up or something so the world would be rid of him. Was also very boring. Could barely stand it, but had to finish it for school. :-/

  24. 4 out of 5

    Micaiah

    Explain to me why this is a classic? I mean, I guess I can see it, but... Geesh, terrible. Just terrible. XD The main character is self-righteous and bratty, which basically ruined anything else. SO GLAD IT'S OVER! *laughs*

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jacqui

    I have no idea how this average review can be 3/5. The Red Badge of Courage is one of many books that address fear in the face of death. Henry, a brand new and young soldier in the Civil War, doesn't know how he will react to battle. When his regiment charges the enemy, Henry defects. He is ashamed, but through a variety of circumstances and enormous personal growth (we love this in our novels) becomes a hero among the soldiers of his regiment. This book made popular the term 'red badge of I have no idea how this average review can be 3/5. The Red Badge of Courage is one of many books that address fear in the face of death. Henry, a brand new and young soldier in the Civil War, doesn't know how he will react to battle. When his regiment charges the enemy, Henry defects. He is ashamed, but through a variety of circumstances and enormous personal growth (we love this in our novels) becomes a hero among the soldiers of his regiment. This book made popular the term 'red badge of courage' as it applies to an injury received in battle. It is recommended for all new Marine recruits because it examines how first-time soldiers, most who have never shot a rifle at another man much less killed someone, would feel thrown into battle. The main character, Henry, likely reacts as many of us would and many did, so most readers relate to his series of events. Though published in 1895, this book remains an icon of American literature. It is a standard allusion in other writing (akin to 'waiting for Godot'). To be considered educated, adults must read this book to fully understand other writing they'll face. Not only the allusion to 'red badge of courage', but the need of warriors to appear brave in the face of battle, to claim courage as a means of bolstering their reputation and personal identity. We see it often in political figures. I can think of two (I'll leave them unnamed, but you know who I mean) whose prowess in battle is questionable though they claimed the mantle of hero. It's safe to say that mankind's roots remained entangled with our battles, our courage, and our ability to be damaged and survive. I guess relevancy to people dropped their rating. If we can't relate to mind-numbing fear and how we would move forward under its influence, I suppose it would be considered 'boring' or 'irrelevant'. To men, even if I may never face a circumstance where I must do the right thing even when every nerve in my body wants me to do something else, I think this book is important to read. How else would I understand the allusions to it in news articles and conversation?

  26. 5 out of 5

    Dean

    A powerful anti-war short story!! A true classic!!! Courageous writing, powerful and realistic with much insight brought to paper by a master storyteller.. The battle at Chancellorsville, an episode of the American Civil War!!! Stephen Crane breathes in his main character--the youth--emotions, fears and desperation battling and struggling against a lifeless ideology containing in a dry husk rotten and deceiving thoughts.. This he does masterly in a mesmerizing and unforgettable way!! I cannot forget A powerful anti-war short story!! A true classic!!! Courageous writing, powerful and realistic with much insight brought to paper by a master storyteller.. The battle at Chancellorsville, an episode of the American Civil War!!! Stephen Crane breathes in his main character--the youth--emotions, fears and desperation battling and struggling against a lifeless ideology containing in a dry husk rotten and deceiving thoughts.. This he does masterly in a mesmerizing and unforgettable way!! I cannot forget the scene in which the youth flees from a battle in terror, trying to survive sudden death!! He finds himself at night in a deep forest surrounded by damaged and badly hurt soldiers.. This tattered shades and figures will hunt my dreams and shape my inner view of the American Civil War in a lasting manner!! His short story was published in 1895 after having interviewed in Port Jervis New York men of the famed Civil War Orange Blossoms Regiment.. happy reading Dean;)

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Another triumph of audio books, I finally managed to get through this one. I had to read it for school 40+ years ago & barely managed to skim enough to pass the test. As short as it is, I found it quite boring, even in audio format. Yet I find the book fascinating on several levels. That Crane could write this so well without ever having been a soldier is incredible. The chaos of battle & boredom of waiting comes through so clearly - just too clearly for far too long & too Another triumph of audio books, I finally managed to get through this one. I had to read it for school 40+ years ago & barely managed to skim enough to pass the test. As short as it is, I found it quite boring, even in audio format. Yet I find the book fascinating on several levels. That Crane could write this so well without ever having been a soldier is incredible. The chaos of battle & boredom of waiting comes through so clearly - just too clearly for far too long & too repetitively. I found myself drifting off more than once. This reader wasn't the best. I liked the overall narration a lot, but the actual soldier's speaking didn't impress me at all. While a better reader would have helped, this book will never be one of my favorites.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Larry Bassett

    It is stunning to me that this book was first published in 1895. It is about the personal experience of a young Union soldier fighting in the Civil War. Maybe it is about the coming of age of a soldier. It is about cowardice and courage. The audible presentation was excellent.

  29. 4 out of 5

    C.B. Cook

    This is a relatively short book, and although there is some hard-to-read dialect, it's certainly enjoyable. The tale of war is a hard, bloody one to read about, but definitely something that we should all think about. This book won't leave my mind any time soon (since I'll still be answering questions about it for American Lit. ;) ). High Violence Language: (view spoiler)[Multiple uses of both d*** and h*** (hide spoiler)]

  30. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    Two stars is generous. It was ponderous and boring. I have read much better descriptions of battlefields in other books whose authors had actually experienced the war (John Esten Cooke and Cyrus Townsend Brady would be two examples off the top of my head). This might have worked much better if it were half the size. The only reason it got two stars instead of one is because I did actually finish it and have not yet recycled it.

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