The red badge of courage : an episode of the American Civil War

by Stephen Crane

Paper Book, 1993





New York : Modern Library, 1993.


During his service in the Civil War a young Union soldier matures to manhood and finds peace of mind as he comes to grips with his conflicting emotions about war.

User reviews

LibraryThing member cyderry
The Red Badge of Courage is the tale of the initial cowardice and later courage of a Union soldier in the Civil War. The young soldier grows up and learns to deal with his feelings about the war.

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.… (more)
LibraryThing member fuzzi
This book has been considered a classic, but I never considered reading it until this year: I am trying to read many of those classics that I neglected during my childhood.

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.
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LibraryThing member Stbalbach
Stephen Crane first published Red Badge in a local Philadelphia magazine when he was 23 years old. It is a short work because Crane found other popular realists like Zola ("Germinal") and Toltstoy to be tiresome, saying of "War and Peace" - "He could have done the whole business in one third the time and made it just as wonderful". He even criticized his own "Red Badge of Courage" as being too long. Crane was a rebel and non-conformist, essentially without any formal education, he disliked anything that was considered popular.

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.
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LibraryThing member lauranav
I enjoyed this book. I think it is a book that youth will read and think they understand, but only years later with the experience of knowing how fickle our emotions are and how often how the world is treating us greatly sways how we see the world, will the irony of the main character's journey come out.

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.
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LibraryThing member NovelBookworm
Since I didn't remember reading this book as a kid, I thought I'd read it when my daughter had to read it for summer reading. The Red Badge was typical of the classics written in the 1800's. Florid, flowery language, certainly a book of great impact for the time it was written. That said though, as a reader, I a person who really loves the written word, and wants nothing more than to see kids grow up with that same love, it seems to me to be almost counter intuitive to teach a novel like this to a group of 13 year olds. Its a difficult book to read, archaic language, obscure phraseology, yet with themes that are pertinent today. I guess I feel that its important to appreciate classic literature, but on a very basic level it feels more important to me to foster a love of reading. I'm not sure that a book such as this will encourage kids to read. I don't know that a 13 year old can appreciate this book and will simply write it off as a boring dusty old book that a teacher crammed down his/her throat. Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating that Junior High kids should be reading only Teen People, Star, XMen and the like, but I think the books we direct them to should be more engaging.… (more)
LibraryThing member santhony
For Christmas, I ordered an mp3 player (Library of Classics) that was pre-loaded with 100 works of classic literature in an audio format. Each work is in the public domain and is read by amateurs, so the quality of the presentation is hit or miss. This was the fifth novel I’ve completed and, like the first four, the reader did not detract from the experience, and was in fact quite good.

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.
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LibraryThing member tess_schoolmarm
Almost impossible to tell who is speaking, thinking, etc. Had to re-read many passages to attribute it to an individual. I kept reading because it is a "classic" and in theory it would get good. I was disappointed. Good thing it was a "short" classic. Why IS this a classic?
LibraryThing member t1bnotown
This is among the very worst books I've ever read! I absolutely hated it! In my eighth grade journal (we read it in eighth grade), I nicknamed it The Red Book of Boredom. It was simply atrociously awful, and it went on and on and on. I remember no merits or saving graces in this one.
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.… (more)
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
To say that Red Badge of Courage is about a young man in combat during the Civil War sells the story short. Henry is a young man facing many things for the first time in his life and throughout battle he struggles with all of it. It's a historical snapshot of the psychology of war. It goes beyond whether Henry can be brave or not. Whether he is a true soldier or not.… (more)
LibraryThing member brose72
Story of valor and fear experienced by civil war combatants. How the personal fortunes and perceptions of the participants change so quickly during the tumultuous conflicts into which the characters are thrown.
LibraryThing member MusicMom41
Crane, Stephen: The Red Badge of Courage

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.


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

the ford-while,

Scarlet and blue and snowy white,

The guidon flags flutter gaily in the wind.

(Walt Whitman)
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LibraryThing member dfuerzas
Worst book, I have ever read. I get the meaning, war is not all action, but ugh!!!
LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
Crane's work, an early entry in the pantheon of American literature, can be read as either an anti-war polemic, or a pro-war piece of propaganda. Certainly the main character, who goes through a personal crisis when faced with battle, swings like a pendulum between the two extremes, and it is unclear by the end which side he settles on. For instance, is it good to fight the good fight because it is good, or because it is necessary?… (more)
LibraryThing member Adelaide1
I love Crane's use for metaphors in this book, because they completely make sense with war and everything that's going on.
LibraryThing member allen1993
About a young union soldier who ran from battle during the civil war. This book taught me the importance of forgiving yourself and others.
LibraryThing member aiufjcf
This book didn't really grab me. It was just ok.
LibraryThing member iubookgirl
Of all the novels I was forced to read as a junior high/high school student, this stand out as my favorite. I am not a fan of this type of literature, but was drawn in by Crane's story of a Civil War soldier and the emotional and psychological tole the war took on him.
LibraryThing member yardchicken2
Painful to read. I know it's a classic. I know it is historically relevant. I still think it sucks.
LibraryThing member kronos999
Another book that I no doubt should have read as a child, but never got to (not being American). Very fast read. I finished the entire thing in about an hour. While it is a classic study of the horrors gripping a young soldier on his first trip to the battlefield and influential in its time, the book didn't really grab me. This is probably due to the use of theme as plot in a fairly short novel so I never really became attached to Henry.… (more)
LibraryThing member BrynDahlquis
I found it very hard to keep my attention focused on it, and half the time I honestly had no idea what was going on. But, since I really wasn't interested, I never could take the time to go back and find the context.

I can kind of see why this book has become such a classic, but I have to say that it's just not for me.… (more)
LibraryThing member DomingoSantos
Somehow over the years I had missed reading this classic. It is well-done, and the dialogue is especially well-done. My only criticism is that the transition from battle-to-non-battle and back, and from chapter-to-chapter often lacked a certain expected continuity.
LibraryThing member jreinheimer
This novel is told from the viewpoint of a soldier during the Civil War. It shows what soldiers felt during the war and why many ran away or fought. This novel is semi graphic and can be taught in any middle or high school. It can be used in lessons to show students what men felt like on the front lines.
LibraryThing member corinneblackmer
Henry Fleming finds that he, like so many others, becomes a coward when first faced with the gruesome rigors of the battlefield. He redeems himself--in reckless and hate-filled fashion--while Crane depicts to a point of historically accurate perfection, the confusions that led to Union defeat in the Battle of Chancellorsville.
LibraryThing member Lizzybeth23
Such an exciting and informative book.
LibraryThing member srboone
Not as exciting or as emotionally relevant as I thought it would be, but immensely enjoyable.


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