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Monday, March 8, 2010

The Red Badge of Courage [Stephen Crane]

The Red Badge of Courage is a classic war novel written in 1985 by American author Stephen Crane. It is considered one of the most influential works in American literature. The novel, in which a young recruit in the American Civil War is faced by the cruelty of war, has made Crane an international success. Although he was born after the war and had not at the time experienced battle firsthand, the novel is considered an example of Realism.

During an unnamed battle, 18-year-old private Henry Fleming survives what he considers to be a lost cause by escaping into the nearby forest, deserting his battalion. He then finds a group of injured men in which One of the group, the "Tattered Soldier", asks Henry, who is often referred to as "The Youth", where he is wounded. Henry, embarrassed that he does not have any wounds, wanders through the forest. He ultimately decides that running was the best thing, and that he is a small part of the army responsible for saving himself.

When he learns that his battalion had won the battle and that it was not a suicide mission after all, Henry feels incredibly guilty. As a result, he returns to his battalion and is injured when a cannon operator hits Henry in the head because he wouldn't let go of his leg. When he returns to camp, the other soldiers believe that he was harmed by a bullet grazing him in battle. The next morning he goes into battle for the third time. While looking for a stream to attain water from, he discovers from the commanding officer that his regiment has a lackluster reputation. The officer speaks casually about sacrificing Henry's regiment because they are nothing more than "mule drivers" and "mud diggers". With no regiments to spare, the general orders his men forward. In the final battle, Henry becomes one of the best fighters in his battalion as well as the flag bearer, finally proving his courage as a man.






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