Home  •  Forum  •  Blogs  •  E-Mail  •  Support Categories
MyCopper Categories Finance Travel Real Estate Games Autos Entertainment
Nearly Relevant
Nonsense, Fiction, and Miscellaneous Things

Stephen Crane, "The Red Badge of Courage"

I've recently read Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage.  A novel which follows the character Henry Fleming's experiences through his first battles of the Civil War.  Like DeFoe's Robinson Crusoe and Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, it is a classic of literature.

The story is populated with men more attentive to the war than to themselves, and young men more attentive to themselves than to the war.  Henry is of the latter group.  He is aware of his own heroic notions; "He had burned several times to enlist. Tales of great movements shook the land.  They might not be distinctly Homeric, but there seemed to be much glory in them."1  And he has doubts as to his ability to live up to these notions;  "He lay in his bunk pondering upon it.  He tried to mathematically prove to himself that he would not run from a battle."2  This is the essential story of the book.  How will Henry fare, physically and emotionally, the troubling experiences of this war.                                         

Besides humor or heroics is Crane's view of his story.  Crane is less opinionated and more of a revealer of subjects to be opined upon by the reader. When Henry expresses about battles,  ". . .there seemed to be much glory in them."3, it is up to the reader to reflect on what that might mean; good, bad, true or false etc..  Crane, himself, does not judge Henry.   Crane is mostly consistent and uniform. He is even-handed, not judging the characters as good or bad, not juding the war as good or bad.  He puts the characters into actions without judging their decisions.   One event in the book has a soldier telling doubtful comrades of the regiments plans.  "'Well, yeh kin b'lieve me er not, jest as yeh like. I don't care a hang.'  There was much food for thought in the manner in which he replied. He came near to convincing them by disdaining to produce proofs. They grew much excited over it."4  I can image Crane telling the reader the exact same thing about this book, and the reader admitting to, 'Yes. There must be someting too it.'

One criticism I have is that, at the very end of the story Crane does step from observer to promoter.  A promoter of battles as a noble, even invicible, form of maturation.  About Henry Fleming, Crane writes;  "With this conviction came a store of assurance.  He felt a quiet manhood, nonassertive but of sturdy and strong blood.  He knew that he would no more quail before his guides wherever they should point.  He had been to touch the great death, and found that , after all, it was but the great death.  He was a man."5    I have no doubt that battles make a person grow, but I think that; ". . .a store of assurance. . .", ". . .no more quail. . .", ". . .the great death. . ." and the like are, accolades which make a caricature of Henry. Crane may have written this purposefully; sarcastically embellishing war's dignity.  But, again, it is up to the reader to decide.

The first 3/4's of the book can be slow but interesting, while the last quarter is fast paced and engaging. Basically the book is about soldiers .  Not modern soldiers with modern weaspons but universal soldiers, living and learning essentially the same lessons, from generation to generation.  The Red Badge of Courage is like a fond antique coin from the 1800's, worth more than it's face value.

1Stephen Crane,  The Red Badge of Courage, www.americanliterature.com, Chap. 1

2Stephen Crane,  The Red Badge of Courage, www.americanliterature.com, Chap. 1

3Stephen Crane,  The Red Badge of Courage, www.americanliterature.com, Chap. 1

4 Stephen Crane,  The Red Badge of Courage, www.americanliterature.com, Chap. 1

5Stephen Crane,  The Red Badge of Courage, www.americanliterature.com, Chap.24


Blog Search