Red Badge of Courage







The Red Badge of Courage is the story of a young man named
Henry Fleming. The novel concerns only two days in his life and he is
a boy when the novel begins, a man when the novel ends. He enlists in
the 304th Regiment of New York Volounteers against his mother\'s
wishes, and spends many boring months in training. He is sent into
battle finally. The battle of Chancellorville is the agreed upon
location where the book probably takes place. It is mentioned that he
travels along the Arappahanock River and by Richmond. The book details
historical fact of the battle. This was the closest the South ever
came to Washington D.C. and it was a very intense battle. Against a
background of battlefield trauma, Crane sets a very important battle:
the battle going on in Henry\'s mind. Henry believes he is faced with
imminent death, and throws down his rifle and flees during the second
skirmish on the first day. He attempts to rationalize his actions and
becomes increasingly ashamed of himself. As he wanders in the rear of
the fighting, he encounters a dead soldier. Eventually he falls in
with some wounded men and witnesses the death of his close friend, Jim
Conklin. As a result of that, he deserts another friend dying and
runs. He wants to make a wound for himself so that he is removed from
the battle, and by accident is hit on the head by a deserter. He\'s
discovered by another soldier, who helps him return to his regiment.
There he lies and says he was wounded in battle. The next day he goes
to the front again, and actually retrieves his army\'s colors from the
dying flag bearer. He urges his comrads on, and is proclaimed a hero.
Crane wrote this book when he was twenty three years old, in
ten days. He had never been in battle and critics through the United
States and England could not believe that he had never seen war. His
sources were teachers athis small private school in New York State.
The book\'s genius is now regarded as an American masterpiece of
psychological writing. Unfortunately, it seems he was probably haunted
by the experience of this book and ultimately went to join the Spanish
American War. He was disqualified from fighting due to tuberculosis,
but he continued into Cuba as a reporter for Pulitzer and Hearst. He
contracted malaria there and several years later died at the age of
twenty eight.
The Red Badge of Courage is an intense inner story of
thoughts, fears and imaginings that any member of an infantry would
find. As comrads fell to the right and left, and as people were
pannicked, the chaos and confusion of kill or be killed comes forth in
simple boyish questions. He stares at corposes. He becomes obsessed
with the thought that the troops are marching into a trap and none of
the leaders know it. He wants to warn his companions. He feels stupid
and incompetent. The first battle arrives and he feels the physical
effects of fighting burning in his eyes and roaring in his ears. He
feels suffocated by the smoke of gunfire. All the soldiers and
officers are fighting in every way possible and when it stops, infront
of him, he sees everyone around him dead and the wounded crawling
away. He hears the sounds of fighting coming from everywhere and
realizes that he is surrounded by war. Crane\'s language becomes
impressionistic. Henry is amazed to see "a pure blue sky and the sun
gleaming on the trees and fields."
He then wakes up, somehow, and sees how proud he is of
himself. Suddenly the enemy reappears. The youth feels it must be a
mistake. He sees men around him running and he feels he is being left
alone to die. He turns and runs. He runs into yet another battle
where, at the edge of the forest, he feels as if he\'s being kept in by
nature itself. That the branches of the trees are trying to halt his
progress. He sees his friend Jim Conklin shot through the stomach,
mortally wounded, and is told he should remove him from the battle.
Jim runs to the bushes before he dies to avoid being run over by war
wagons. Henry watches with an agony almost as great as his friend.
Henry tries to understand what Jim is thinking but cannot reach his
friend. Crane ends the chapter with the sentance, "The red sun was
pasted in the sky like