Young Henry Fleming had always dreamt of performing heroic deeds in battle. But as a raw recruit in the American Civil War, the reality if one of mental and physical torment. Throughout his first ordeal in action, Henry experiences both fear and self-doubt, and has no idea whether war will make him a coward - or a hero.
I had heard so much about this book but was terribly disappointed. I had a very difficult time getting through this "saga". Just a another CLASSIC that didn't grab me. Don't know what the fuss was all about.
Henry Fleming has grand visions of being a hero and determines he will serve in the Union Army, against his mother's wishes. He is young and immortal so he doesn't see any reason for his mother to be sad. And her practical advice about clothes and food are also inappropriate, taking away his chance to make grande pronouncements about his great deeds.
His first experience with war is the boredom of waiting. Eventually rumor of battle comes and he begins to wonder if maybe he'll run away in battle. He worries about it but knows that only time will tell. What follows are battles and feelings of invincibility, fear, agony, comradeship with the others in his regiment, guilt. anger at the officers, anger at Nature, anger at the enemy, a little anger at himself, and satisfaction in a job well done.
My edition had an introduction and Afterward by Joe Haldeman that were very interesting and helpful, but also short so they didn't take away from enjoying the story itself.
The story is told through the perspective of 'the youth', aka 'Henry'. He is a raw recruit in the Union Army, during the American Civil War, actual year is not mentioned. Henry dreams of glory until his first real battle. He survives, but has conflicting emotions, which continue to haunt him until the next battle.
I did have some difficulty with this book, especially concentrating during occasional musings by Henry. However, I did get a better sense of what the young soldiers must have experienced.
I'm glad I finally read it, but am unsure of a reread in the future.
The Red Badge of Courage is subtitled “An Episode of the American Civil War”. It follows a callow, young Union soldier named Henry Fleming, as he enlists and sees his first action against the Confederate Army. At times, the story is very engaging, however very long stretches are taken up with the thoughts and imaginings of young Fleming that grind the story to an agonizing halt. It is no secret that Fleming runs from his first encounter with battle, whereupon numerous chapters are consumed with his rationalizations and recriminations as he wanders the rear, seeing injured soldiers and advancing and withdrawing units, before he returns to his squad with a mysterious head wound which covers his cowardice.
Subsequent skirmishes take place in which the author uses every florid adjective in the English language to describe Fleming’s actions, thoughts and impressions. The final several chapters are so absurd in their tortured use of descriptive words and phrases that I was left shaking my head. As bad as the audio version was, I can only imagine having to read the book. Avoid at all costs.
Crane was aiming for photographic documentation, but the work is also richly symbolic, with a series of episodic scenes juxtaposed like a French impressionist painting forming contrasts. Thus he is able to capture the ironic and contradictory nature of war, swinging from elation to fear, pride to humbleness, love to anger .. time and geography are lost, what is right becomes wrong and what is wrong becomes right. The book has no real plot, and is morally ambiguous, one leaves it feeling a bit disheveled wondering exactly what happened, but with certain scenes forever etched in your memory. Probably one of the best artistic representations of the experience of combat.
To be kept in mind- I like most books in general, even books I don't especially LIKE, I feel friendly towards and am generally amicable towards. This book sucked.
I'm not sure how I managed to miss reading this for so many years because it is one of the most well known American classics about the Civil War. It was never a reading assignment for me in school for which I am now glad because I'm sure I enjoyed it more as an adult than I would have as a student.
This is an "interior" novel that emphasizes the thoughts and emotions of a young, idealistic boy who enlists in the Union army against his mother's advice and prayers. He goes off with ideas of the glory of battle after reading such classic accounts of war for which the ancient Greeks were renowned. He quickly learns that the reality is nothing like the ideal of the classic wars. Crane does a good job of giving us the ups and downs of the daily life of a foot soldier and excellent descriptions of battles. However, the focus of the novel is Henry Fielding's (often referred to merely as "the youth") adolescent perceptions and reactions to the daily grind of the soldier and to his concerns about how he appears to the other soldiers. This is a coming of age novel that takes place in the hellish conditions of armed conflict. It deserves its classic designation but if it is assigned to students it should be read and discussed in small doses. There is essentially no plot to keep a young person's interest but it could make a great discussion book about dealing with the ups and downs of adolescent emotions.
While reading this book I also started reading a book of Walt Whitman's Complete Poems. I know he had written poems about the Civil War so I looked up some of them. After reading this very realistic novel most of them seemed to me to be a too romanticized look at the war. However, one of them captured well the feel of a scene described by Crane early in the book. I know Crane never witnessed anything of the civil War; I wonder if Whitman did.
CALVALRY CROSSING A FORD
A line in long array where they wind betwixt green islands,
They take a serpentine course, their arms flash in the sun-
hark to the musical clank,
Behold the silvery river, in it the splashing horses loitering
stop to drink,
Behold the brown-faced men, each group, each person a
picture, the negligent rest on the saddles,
Some emerge on the opposite bank, others are just entering
Scarlet and blue and snowy white,
The guidon flags flutter gaily in the wind.
I'm not disappointed that I finally picked this up and read it. It is a very short novel and doesn't take much of a time commitment to read. I did however find it dragging in parts and it took me a while to get into it. Henry, the youth, of the novel is a fairly simple individual who is shown the ugly face of war and his reactions to his first experiences are what the book is about.
All in all, this is a good book, but nowhere near great. I'm not a big fan of Crane's style in his storytelling, however he does paint a vivid picture and the reader gets a clear idea of what it may have been like to be an unwitting youth going into battle for the first time with little training or warning of what to expect.
The story line did keep me flipping pages, although it seemed a little too much like any war book. It of course had more than one extreme problem with the main character and always had the obvious outcome. This book was also way too short, the copy that I have read was only 100 pages and the author seemed to just blurt out a lot of unexplained happenings.
Forgetting the minor flaws, Stephen Crane painted the perfect picture of what was really going on in the U.S. during the Civil War. It is a great history lesson for anyone studying this subject and it is indeed a fun way to spend the historical fiction chapter in the classroom. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a short, intense, fun read.