The Red Badge of Courage Study Guide

The Red Badge of Courage Study Guide

Original title:
The Red Badge of Courage
Published 2006 by Clayton, Del. : Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Classics, (first published 1895)
United States of America
Chancellorsville, Virginia(United States)
ISBN 1580495869 (ISBN13: 9781580495868)

“The Red Badge of Courage” is an American novel about the civil war written by Stephen Crane. Unlike many other war novels, this story focuses on the inner feelings of a member of the Union Army who at one point fled the battlefield.

The book was written at the end of the 19th century by an author who was born after the actual events depicted. But the text strikes the reader with its realistic style. The author doesn’t try to deliver a comprehensive and epic description of the battlefield, he doesn’t make any global conclusions or appeals, and there are no attempts to put the events in historical perspective.

The text is more of a psychological narration about a young person named Henry Fleming. He joins the war and experiences lots of fear when entering the combat zone. The fear is a major driver behind the plot of the book. The reader follows an evolutionary development of the young man. At first, he is scared of the war and that he will be killed. After he gives into this feeling of fear and flees, he is afraid that he will be caught, punished and mocked at by the society.

Moved by this second wave of fear he returns to the battlefield where his personality is transformed. He now feels responsible for his friends, proud of being a part of something important for the country, and finds himself worthy of being called a brave man. The virtue that is born from fear makes him a real soldier.

The author doesn’t try to make you feel present in a middle of a fierce battle. He wants to tell his story through the feelings and experiences of one particular man. The war itself is a backdrop and a reason, it is abstract and doesn’t make the reader feel depressed. The book is a short read that presents an interesting perspective.  

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