The Red Badge of Courage

ISBN: 0140620893
ISBN 13: 9780140620894
By: Stephen Crane

Check Price Now


Civil War Classic Classics Currently Reading Fiction Historical Fiction History Literature To Read War

About this book

Henry Fleming, a raw Union Army recruit in the American Civil War, is anxious to confirm his patriotism and manhood - to earn his "badge of courage." But, his dreams of heroism and invulnerability are soon shattered when he flees the Confederate enemy during his baptism of fire and then witnesses the horrible death of a friend. Plunged unwillingly into the nightmare of war, Fleming survives by sheer luck and instinct.

Reader's Thoughts


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?


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.


I read this in High School and thought it might be nice to read again without the pressure, knowing it is my choice to pick it up whenever I want. It's much better than I remember and I'm really enjoying it. I finished it yesterday and was glad I read it again. If the book had been longer though, it would have been too long for me. It was interesting to go into the mind of someone at war. Apparently civil war veterans said it was a very accurate portrayal.

Christine E.

I first read this as a very young kid (I was no more than 8 years old). I thought it was amazing then, and I re-read it when I was in my 20's and appreciated it even more. However I doubt I'll be up for another re-read anytime soon, because I can't handle harrowing stories of war the way I once could, even ones as beautifully written as this one. But there will always be a place for it on my bookshelf. Um ... or in one of my many boxes of books that hasn't yet been unpacked after 3 years in our house because we are out of shelf space. So I'm pleased to be able to give it a place of honor here in my virtual library.


Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage inspired me.In the beginning, Henry Fleming enters the army with strong romantic feelings about war. After experiencing the realities of army life, he becomes plagued by doubts and fears.Henry wakes from a brief nap to find that the enemy is again charging his regiment. Terror overtakes him this time and he leaps up and flees the line. As he runs across the field, he tells himself that he made the right decision, that his regiment could not have won, and that the men who remained to fight were fools.Later on, Henry passes a group of wounded soldiers. He is deeply envious of these men, thinking that their wounds are like “a red badge of courage". He meets a tattered man who has been shot twice and who speaks proudly of the fact that his regiment did not flee. He repeatedly asks Henry where he is wounded, which makes Henry deeply uncomfortable because he has no wounds to show.After Henry is hit over the head during his flight from the front he is able to clarify his understanding of his role of what it means to be a soldier. He overcomes his fears and quilt to become one of the fiercest, most aggressive soldiers in the regiment. He accepts duty by showing the confidence and courage required to be a soldier.Next, a good theme for The Red Badge of Courage would be never to give up. Henry was afraid of the war ,but later on he realized he could make a difference and he over came his fears.In conclusion, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who is trying to over a fear or hardship in life.

Henry Avila

The Battle of Chancellorsville,in northern Virginia, 1863,one of the bloodiest,24,000 casualties,of the war between the states, is the focus of this novel.Henry Fleming a 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 widow mother,not to,Henry out of patriotism or boredom, wants to join the Union Army.Many months pass,of training and marching, until Fleming gets into action.Some of his friends,boys he grew up with, are in the 304th regiment with him.Camp life,living mostly in tents,little food,nothing to do,unsanitary living conditions ,constant marching to different sites.The veterans call the newcomers "Fresh Fish".Wondering if he'll be brave or a coward in the conflict.Finally the youth see's war.The charging rebels from out of the woods, bring 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 he 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 and unobtrusively as possible.Wandering around aimlessly, Henry heads for a nearby forest,trying to get away from the ugly war.The sounds of battle are muted by the trees.Only a short distance from the struggle,as if all the world was a peaceful place,and is a sanctuary for him .But Henry can't get very far from reality.A Union soldier,propped up against a tree,stares with his dead eyes at the deserter.An insect crawling over his face.Henry decides to get back to his regiment but ironically is hit in the head,with a rifle butt. By a man in a blue uniform, Fleming was in the way,causing blood to flow.His Red Badge of Courage. Arriving home,with the help of an unknown soldier, nobody had noticed his cowardliness.They thought he was dead and bandage his "war wound".Next day another scrimmage.Fleming feels different now,comradeship with his fellow soldiers,as close as brothers,Henry never experienced such emotions ,he even leads the charge, has he become a man?


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.

John Yelverton

I know that this is supposed to be this amazing classic, but I found it tremendously boring and not even worth my time.

Mary Beth

I had to read this one twice during high school, and my friends and I just could not stand it! I may remember a great deal about the book, having read it more than once, but that doesn't mean I liked it.

Caelea Armstrong

My dad likes to read books about war, and so Red Badge seemed to me at the time like a junior version of the volumes of Civil War books my father studied. I read it and I thought it was okay but it didn't really move me or stick with me after I returned it to the library. Several years later, I was reading this book with my students in an American Lit class and I felt so discouraged because they so vocally hated it, and I was trying to make it real for them by dressing up our room as an army camp and having them march in formation to Fort Vending Machine down the hall, but the only thing that motivated them was just to finish the book and get rid of it. (We had a military funeral with TAPS when that happened.) I don't know if it's that the story is so hard to comprehend or if it was my failure as a new teacher or what. It is a heavy little story. I think it is one that we should read, especially with what is going on in the world today, but it may be hard to read at you want to put the book down, but you force yourself to finish the chapter first. I guess that's not much of an endorsement.


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.

David Johnson

The book "Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane is a good book. Henry is a farmer boy, who wants to join the war. When he joins he and his platoon just march around and don't do anything. Henry's platoon is resting and they think they are going to fight soon. They don't fight until later on in the book. When they do fight, most of the men run away. Henry gets stuck with a bunch of wounded men, because he lost his company. He finds his friend, Jim. Jim dies because his wound is really bad. Later on in the book Henry becomes the flag carrier because of his bravery and courage. The characters in the book are Henry, who is a teenager. He works on his parent's farm, until the war. Henry's friend, Jim, is in the same platoon as him. Then there is the loud mouth friend named, Wilson. Wilson makes it through the war with Henry and those two are best buds. The place of the book is in the Civil War times. The South is trying to secede from the North. The setting of the book is in the summer. Everyone one is hot and tired. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes history or nice short war stories. This is an easy read and very easy to understand. It is not hard to comprehend. There are some bad words but not a lot.


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.

Alex Csicsek

Great novel about one youth's first two days of battle in the Civil War. Although Crane's attempts to share the universal experience is transparent in that the character seems to test samples of everything every soldier went through in two long days (from the sheer boredom of waiting, running from the battle lines, hunger, injruy, the fear of charging into battle, the exhilaration of actually battling, and on and on), it is a laudable aim and one that the author suceeds in.It is not in this survey course of Civil War As Experienced By the Soldier that modern readers will learn the most but rather in Crane's excellent description of battle and its attendent psychology before, during, and after the event. Crane helps you to imagine the unimaginable: standing tall in a line with your comrades marching into a cloud from which spurts a hail of bullets, the massive booms of cannons and the high shreiks of your friends dying swirling about you, the heat and fear and mortality of knowing that within that cloud stand men ready with sharp points to thrust into your neck. It is an experience most of us, even those who fight in modern wars where microchips play larger roles than blades, will never know, and it is captured in the Red Badge of Courage.Although well-done and certainly valuable, those of us not obsessed with war will find it boring at parts. The psychology explored is one that, as I wrote, is antiquated due to changes in war. That said the pages of battle are fascinating and well worth your time for such a short read.

Jonathan-David Jackson

It was short. So, that's something.

Share your thoughts

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *