The Red Badge of Courage

ISBN: 0140620893
ISBN 13: 9780140620894
By: Stephen Crane

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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

Tara Ferrin

I actually finally finished the book last night. I say finally not because I didn't enjoy it, because I did, but it definitely was a tougher read than I'm used. The language is older more descriptive, and at times hard to figure out, but in the end I think it made me appreciate it more. I'm not going to pretend that I understood even half of what the author was trying to say, but It did affect me, and spoke to me personally at times. In my opinion he's a brilliant writer. It's a story of a very young and inexperienced soldier in the civil war named Henry. It tells of his inward struggles finding courage and making sense of this terrible thing called war. It is disturbing at times to read some of the horrors he describes, not because it's graphic, but just emotionally heart wrenching. I love this paragraph:"As he gazed around him, the youth(Henry) felt a flash of astonishment at the blue pure sky and the sun-gleamings on the trees and fields. It was surprising that nature had gone tranquilly on with her golden processes in the midst of so much devilment."After reading this, I could really feel myself in his shoes. Here he is in this captivatingly beautiful place, listening to the stream running by and the birds singing, how can life go so peaceably on for nature, when something so horrible and ugly as war is raging at the same time.It was sad to read how insignificant he felt at times, his lieutenant called his regiment a bunch of slow "mule-drivers" and sent them off to charge the enemy stating that few would make their way back. How would that feel? Like being sent off as one of the unimportant masses to be slaughtered for the greater good. I can't imagine. I hope our soldiers understand how important they are not just collectively. but individually. They are each heros to me, for just being there.I loved this novel. It wasn't an easy read for me, but it was worth it.side note: I read the New Edition, it's I guess the complete edition restored from the author's original manuscript. The version first published and the one most people are familiar with is supposedly different. " It was altered in many key passages and an entire chapter was removed in order to make it a simpler, less realistic picture of war-more acceptable to the readers of the time." As stated on the back of my book. Hope you enjoy!


There is surprisingly little 19th century American fiction that describes the Civil War combat experience. Contemporaneous memoirs, poems, and histories abound, but Ambrose Bierce’s short stories and Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage” are likely the most prominent examples of literary war narratives from that century. Both are remarkable for their combination of stylized lyricism and brutal, near-cynical unsentimentality. Bierce was a seasoned war veteran but Crane was only 24 when his novel was published to commercial and critical success in 1896. Ironically, Bierce was one of its few detractors.The title of “Red Badge” deceptively suggests conventional, portentous themes of honor and valor, which are reliably de rigueur in war fiction. Crane’s performance both satisfies and subverts expectations: This is one of the most atypical and atmospheric war novels ever written.As the novel opens, young recruit Henry Fleming (referred to as “The Youth”) waits for action in his encampment, the kind of purgatorial semi-permanent collection of tents captured in scores of Mathew Brady photographs. In this brief respite, Fleming reflects abstractly on the combat experience, and he’s soon tested as his regiment moves into battle.What follows borders on prose poetry. Crane's narrative takes a densely rhetorical and descriptive turn, capturing a profound introspection as the novel transforms into an evocative, unbroken battle sequence in a nameless landscape. Like Shelby Foote’s “Shiloh,” which must owe at least a subconscious debt to Crane, Henry fights in a swirl of surreal chaos that provokes a torrent of inward reflection in dramatic synchronicity with Crane’s seemingly continuous evocation of fog, smoke, and any other imaginable form of airborne detritus. The turmoil of battle ebbs and flows, with victory or defeat virtually unknowable in the bedlam of combat; when violence periodically subsides, there is little empirical agreement on what has occurred or whether the regiment has achieved success. Crane wisely keeps this dense, unremitting novel short. This is a controlled, mature performance from a writer who tragically died only four years after its publication. Based on this work and the great short story “The Open Boat,” he might have produced an unqualified masterpiece. “The Red Badge of Courage” remains a remarkable artifact.

Arlene Starr

It is a narration about the daily struggles and emotions of men in the American Civil war, particularly about a young private named Henry. You feel with him the exasperation of waiting and the anticipation of fear as he contemplates his first battle. You watch Henry try to evaluate his capabilities beforehand and those of his comrades and friends. You walk through other emotions as he runs through them in his mind. Henry is cocky at times, considers himself an intellect of sorts, restless, fearful, and capable of criticizing. This book is full of conversation with a dialect of backwoods farm-boys although these soldiers wear the blue uniform. It can be charming and warm in rare areas despite the circumstances. It has extremely good characterization. Henry fights his way through his emotions of fear, of exasperation with others, and his reaction to death. As he progresses as a young soldier and comrade within his regiment, he finds himself in situations where he exhibits brave behavior and a gun-ho spontaneity and fearless head on charge. In essence, it is about a young boy who is forced to become a man and deal with extreme complexities of life. I would recommend it for young adults and older.

Nathan Albro

I found it disappointing that The Red Badge of Courage, an American classic, was dull, had poor pacing, and lackluster characterization. There might be historical value in this novel, written by Stephen Crane who was born nearly five years after America’s civil war ended, but there is little to enjoy. The novel does focus on the psyche of the protagonist – more so then on the war itself, but I found myself not caring. I didn’t care for the characters nor did I care about the battles or the war. I told myself that I would give the novel a fair review only by reading it in its entirety, which led me to gloss over the last few chapters as to end the torture.I debated giving two stars as there was one scene that I noted as compelling – the scene where Henry Fleming watches Jim Conklin struggle to continue marching while Jim is dying of wounds from the battle. This was a moment where Henry experiences firsthand that war is hell. However, one powerful scene cannot resurrect this lifeless corpse of a book. I pity the High School student that is assigned this book and question the teacher that does the assigning.


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?


On a day in May of 1863, Private Henry Fleming went on walkabout from his regiment, the 304th New York Infantry, on the battlefield of Chancellorsville. Except we don't really know all that. We are not told of "Fighting Joe" Hooker, of all his eclat and bluster, and of his ultimate failure upon being flanked by the Confederates. All we know if the war being waged in the mind and heart of one New York private, a farm boy who says "yeh" instead of "you," and who fancies himself a hero but who has not quite yet come to terms with with raging red beast that is war. Henry does not actually run from battle: He wanders from battle, eventually meeting up with one of his comrades, Bill Conklin, the "Tall Man," who dies in his presence. Then he wanders back to his regiment (with some help), and takes up his musket again.In the meantime, a change has taken place in the New York private:With the conviction came a store of assurance. He felt a quiet manhood, non-assertive 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 manIn the end, we seem him carrying his unit's colors into battle and even stealing the colors of the Rebel unit he is fighting. This book, Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage: An Episode of the American Civil War foreshadows -- and even beats to hell -- Ernest Hemingway ... and Hemingway knew it! Who knows what Crane would have done had he not died so young of tuberculosis? As it is, he has left behind a body of work that will never be forgoten -- even if it takes a while for some people to realize this.This particular edition is highly recommended because of the excellent introduction by Civil War Historian Shelby Foote.

Steven Peterson

The difference between cowardice and courage. What is it? Where is the dividing line? Can one be both a coward and courageous? Stephen Crane addresses these issues in "The Red Badge of Courage." The exploration of these issues is competently done, set in the context of the Civil War. The protagonist learns from his cowardice and becomes an effective soldier, removed from the romanticism of battle. . . .


This novel is basically about a young man who goes to war. Written by an author who had never experienced war but believed he could write a better war novel than was currently available. If history is any indication - he did as the book is a classic (which is why I read it).I enjoyed this tale! I would definately recommend it. I don't want to talk too much about what our protagonist goes through so will keep this review very brief.The writing style was pretty fluid and the story was very easy to read. However, keep in mind I'm not reading these books with a critical eye instead I'm just trying to enjoy the story that is being told. I would say Crane did some deep soul searching to get a grip on how his character should handle his first, and subsequent, encounters with actual battle. However, at the same time it seems clear, based on some of the events in the book, that he had no real idea of what life as a solider is like. For a guy who had never seen war though he did a great job.

Jane Pierre

"The shells which had ceased to trouble the regiment for a time, came swirling again, and exploded in the grass or among the leaves of the trees. They looked to be strange war flowers bursting into fierce bloom." Taken from the book The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, these sentences provide the beginning descriptions of an action-filled scene with glows from gun shells showering a resting regiment. The author does not fail to give blurbs of the scenery and of the soldiers throughout the book; the descriptions are so clear, one might believe he or she is on the sidelines observing the characters. I belive that another major part of the story is that the main character, Henry Fleming, must win the war within himself and to win the war around him. Helen Keller once said, "Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved." This is a perfect example of the ordeal the Henry has while in his regiment. From the beginning he struggles with the army life during the Civil War and whether or not he made a fatal mistake in enlisting. With the great character development, the use of image-filled words and the vernacular of this time, The Red Badge of Courage is a good read. Henry Fleming, mostly mentioned in the story as "the youth", grew up raising farm animals. Eventhough his mother defied the thought of her son fighting in the war, nevertheless, he enlists into the army. Henry "ain't never been away from home much." With that in mind, his mother fears those who would make her child wild by "a-learnig" him how to drink and swear. In the first few chapters, Henry is irritable because at first the regiment is stationed by a river for a long period and then day after day, it has to walk over all the surrounding land. Going by what Helen Keller said, Henry could not figure out his true potential and how brave he was because he had not done any fighting. Crane provides a great number of views into Henry's mind such as in this text: "He must accumulate information of himself, and meanwhile he resolved to remain close upon his guard lest those qualities of which he knew nothing should everlastingly disgrace him. 'Good Lord!' he repeated in dismay." Then Crane leads the reader right back out of Henry's mind as if those thoughts were the reader's and describes what is happening around as if the reader was embodying Henry. An example occurs right after the above text: "After a time the tall soldier slid dexterously through the hole. The loud private followed. They were wrangling." Basically, this book has a nice flow to it because it grabs you into everyone of the scenes. Crane uses the common dialect of the day, which is very interesting, especially if read aloud: "Gee, yes! An' I hope we don't have no more fightin' till a week from Monday." Henry is comfortable after his first battle because he stood his ground and fought, not as a " man but a member." He has a feeling of belonging and admiration for all his fellow soldiers, which is perfect because his regiment color is blue, symbolizing loyalty. In the second battle, as he feared, he ran away from the "monster". This move bothered him for a long time afterwards because everywhere he went he saw his own northern men fighting to the death; courageous, unlike he was. The thought of justifying his actions to his regiment was fearful. He knew the moment he stepped foot on his campground he would be a laughing stock. During his wanderings, he is changed by a friend's awkward death and while on his way to finding his regiment he is butted in the head, causing his head to swell. He arrives at camp, injured, late at night, which provides protection from questions of his whereabouts. In the next battles, Henry is aroused by a strong animosity towards the Confederates and discovers that he is very courageous and an example for his fellow soldiers. His brave actions are acknowledged, along with those of another character. In the last chapter, Henry reviews in his mind all of his performances during his time in the army; "his deeds, his failures, and his achievements." From his viewpoint after the last battle, he says he can clearly see them "march before him...and criticise them with some correctness." From this the reader can infer that Henry has grown; he has become wiser and can now be considered a man.

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?

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.

Jonathan-David Jackson

It was short. So, that's something.

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.

Moses Kilolo

When Henry Flemming set off to join the war, he perhaps did not have a clear picture of what lay before him, what his decision meant. Like every other young man (across the divide of time and circumstance) he envisions his return as a hero - an achieved man. but does he pause to consider the damn hardship of the battlefield? Perhaps not! At some point he actually runs, but his conscience torments him. A series of happenings (accidental- i think) push him back to track, and there he tries to prove his manhood.I find that the power of this war novel is not really in the story, but in how it is rendered. Crane's prose (though at some point overly descriptive) is to the large extend exquisite. So also his portrayals of the internal conflict of this youth. The Language is beautiful, and makes this, a not so simple and straightforward novel, a worthy read.Cool line:He turned now with a lover's thirst to images of tranquil skies, fresh meadows, cool brooks - an existence of soft and eternal peace.


Another librivox recording.I've been doing a lot of yard work so my trusty ipod is filled with librivox books. I hate yard work. This is the only way I can get through it.I'm not a fan of war anything: books,movies, stories. But my friend just finished listening to The Red Badge of Courage and suggested I try it. I'm still not a fan of war books. This one wasn't bad, but the descriptions of the war, of the injuries was really more than I wanted.The person we're supposed to root for is Henry aka The Youth. I found myself despising this kid. Maybe I'm not surrounded by normal folk, maybe I'm holding people up to loftier ideals but I can't believe that someone would act the way he did. Running away from battle, I can understand. But justifying by claiming he's smarter than everyone else, trying to find ways to be superior to friends, etc. was just something I can't believe a human being would do.Until I remember that this is a 19 year old boy. This, right here, is my problem with wars. Especially unnecessary ones (like the one we're in now...ahem). They have kids, just KIDS, fighting these battles. Kids who, like Henry, have never seen death before, let alone killed someone or something. We're sending kids off, mentally unprepared, and they face down the possibility of death and see their friends blown to bits and when they come back home, oops, we're done with you. Have a nice post-traumatic stress disorder. This boy wasn't prepared. He was still believing that corpses might get up and come after him.The ending shooed away some of my dislike of Henry. Thankfully, he redeemed himself. But I'm still upset that that is how kids grew up. Seeing corpses, seeing friends shot to death, shooting other people to death is not how kids should become men.

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