The Red Badge of Courage The World of Henry Fleming

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The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage was Stephen Crane's best known novel. It was one of his two great ones, the other being the under rated, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, which was also a ground breaking novel taking up the subject of women's plights in industrial society as the Red Badge takes up men's plight in wartime.

The story is a cerebral one, about what the protagonist, new recruit 18 year old Yankee Henry Fleming, thinks. As in most Crane writing, most characters remain nameless such as the Tall Soldier. The story starts with all the enthusiasm of newbies going to war. Then Fleming faces the boredom of military camp and, as a writer famously said, 99% of the time boredom, 1% terror. Crane introduces us to that subject through this novel. In the first battle Henry runs; but he is covered by the confusion and gets to return and reunite with his fellows. He picks up a fake injury to justify this by being bonked on the head by another retreating soldier.

In the last section, Fleming steps up as the flag carrier, fights well, and survives for another day. Another later Crane short story, The Veteran, features Fleming as an older man, so presumably he survived the Civil War. This is all left open ended as the novel only covers a few weeks time in the four year war. Listen to The Veteran to see how it all turned out and was remembered.


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