Tuesday, 30 April 2019

The Red Badge Of Courage by Stephen Crane

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
First published by D Appleton and Company in America in October 1895 after newspaper serialisation of an abridged version the previous year.

How I got this book:
Downloaded as part of the 2015 AudioSYNC season

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This story is about a young soldier, Henry Fleming, fighting in the American Civil War. It is a vivid and stark portrayal of war on the human psyche, interspersed with symbolic imagery and biblical metaphors. The story realistically portrays the young soldier's physical and psychological struggles after fleeing from his first encounter with a battle. He returns to his regiment to become a strong soldier and even taking on the task of the flag bearer in the final battle.

Though Stephen Crane had never been in any combat situations, his interviews with a wide number of veterans enabled him to create this novel, widely regarded as a unusually realistic depiction of a young man in battle.

This review was first published on my Stephanie Jane blog in 2015.

The Red Badge of Courage is the earliest dated book I received via this summer’s AudioSYNC programme. An American classic, it was first published in 1895 so is even before the first segment of theBookcrossing Decade Challenge I have joined on Goodreads.

Young Henry Fleming has enlisted to fight in the America Civil War. Naïve to what awaits him, he flees during his first battle, finding himself among wounded men whom Henry sees as displaying their red badges of courage – their bloodstains. After being hit by one of his own side, Henry returns to his regiment where, believing his previous cowardice unnoticed, he seizes the flag when its bearer is killed. Suddenly brave beyond his experience, he leads through intense fighting, remaining unharmed.

Red Badge of Courage is written in an impersonal fashion which I thought both helped and hindered its impact. By not particularly detailing people’s or places’ names, it can be a novel of any low-tech war, as relevant now as then and all across the globe. However, devices such as continually referring to Henry as ‘the youth’ made it difficult for me to really invest in his story and I found myself frequently drifting away from listening. I am also not sure whether Crane’s message was meant to turn readers on to or away from war. The descriptions of fighting and casualties are powerful, but our protagonist redeems himself by rushing headlong into battle, glorifying the bloodshed in order to 'become a man'.

Etsy Find!
by Quoted Art in
Louisiana, USA

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Stephen Crane / War fiction / Books from America


  1. I read this for Jr. High lit and it turned my stomach because we had studied the Battle of Shiloh in US History. It didn't stop me from reaching for Gone With the Wind as extra credit. LOL

    1. Now Gone With The Wind is one I've not yet read. I haven't seen the film either!

  2. Any story about the civil war is sure to be vivid and bloody I would think. This sounds interesting even if I doubt I would enjoy it.

    1. I wasn't sure if I'd get on with it, but overall I thought it was good and certainly an interesting choice for AudioSYNC

  3. It's been many years since I read this one. Great classic.

    1. I wasn't aware of it before, but was happy to get the opportunity of this audio version

  4. Eh, this doesn't quite sound like my kind of read. I am a very 'personal' reader, if such a thing exists. So I already know the impersonal writing style wouldn't work for me... Great review nonetheless!

    1. This one hasn't dated particularly well so I could appreciate it as a classic from that period, but it's very different to how a historical fiction novel of today would portray the same events