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on September 4, 2010
Unlike many others I was never required to read "The Red Badge of Courage" in High School. When I saw that it was among the many other classics that are now available for free on the Kindle I happily took the opportunity to read it; I am glad that I did.

There are plenty of reviews of the novel itself on the print version, so first a note about the Kindle Edition of this book: I found no typos or poor formatting of the text throughout the Kindle Edition, which is a nice change from many of the other free classics. The only problem with this edition is that the table of contents does not work. It looks as if it should, but it is apparently just a large image within the text file, instead of clickable links to the relevant sections of the book. This is not a big deal, but it is always nice to have a working table of contents for reference.

As for the story: The Red Badge of Courage tells the story of Henry, often referred to as the "Youth," and his transformation over the course of a few days. Considering the author never fought in a war, his reflections on the the way battles can change a person are truly insightful, and at times even breath-taking. Stephen Crane also had a talent for describing the world around Henry allowing the reader to feel as if they are in the novel. The book is quite short, but Crane does a great job developing Henry's character. As Henry goes from scared, to terrified, to arrogant, and eventually humble, you find yourself actively liking and disliking Henry through his transformation, as if you were there.

There are two particular literary devices Crane uses that I particularly enjoyed and make the novel poetic at times. First, almost all of the characters have both a name and them also a character description. For example, Henry is "the Youth," he has a friend "the loud youngster" and so on for all the main characters. This reinforces the idea that this is not just a book about a particular person or group of people, but about people in general. The second device is the way Crane uses common themes. So, the word red is used an adjective of the novel, just as it is in the title. Or, another example, Henry is walking through the woods that remind him of a chapel: from that moment there is a chorus, steeple, etc., used as adjectives and metaphors for the next few pages. This is truly poetic.

I am grateful that there are teams of volunteers that put this material together and release it for free for the Kindle. The Red Badge of Courage was a quick and entertaining read: if, like me, you did not have the chance to read it when you were younger I would certainly recommend it.
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on May 14, 2007
As a British reader, I just recently read and reviewed this book over on, and I thought I'd have a look at the US reviews for comparison - and immediately realised that this is obviously a "set book" in US schools. I can see the logic - the book is about a young person, it's short and (superficially) exciting, with lots of action, and it has some good moral/ethical themes ripe for class discussion.

Nonetheless, I was not surprised to see a number of negative reviews from kids. I don't think I would have appreciated it as a 13 (or whatever) year old. The writing style (deliberately) reflects the state of mind of the protagonist - confused. This in NOT an "adventure" story, it's a blood-and-guts account of a dirty day in a dirty war. As such, it reminded me very much of some of the recent first-hand accounts of infantrymen in WWII, Korea, Vietnam or even Iraq. It's about the way the mind can obsess on tiny details in the middle of chaos - how sights, smells and sounds become almost hallucinogenic as the mind approaches breaking point. As such, it is astonishing.

But if you want a REAL adventure story (not suitable for the under-13s!) read a biography of Crane himself. Hemingway meets James Dean is the only way to describe it.
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When I was in high school several years ago, this was one of the books required in one of my English classes. And, upon going through the many reviews below, I find that it is still a required book for today's students. But, several appear to find Crane's novel "boring," "difficult to read," and nothing that they can "relate to." I heard many of the same things in the early 1960s. But, then I found myself in an environment not too dissimilar of the main character of the novel. It suddenly became relevent and real. Crane's depiction of war and the thoughts of young men at war, both willing and unwilling, will always be relevant. This novel is the psychological study of a young soldier and his first encounters with the brutality seen in battle (many critics have regarded this book as the first modern war novel). The unnamed battle in the novel is probably Chancellorsville (1863). The young infantryman, Henry Fielding, faces his first battle wanting to prove himself a hero. However, when the battle is actually thrust upon him, he is overcome by fear and he runs. He joins the wounded but he has not won their "red badge of courage." He sees his friend Jim Conklin killed and he becomes enraged, particularly at the injustice of war. (I remember noting the significance of the initials J. C. for the soldier's friend; but, I later discovered that this observation was not original. The novel is filled with imagery. For example, even the horsemen of the apocalypse make an appearance.) This is a great novel and I hope it remains on reading lists for years to come.
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on February 22, 2001
The Red Badge of Courage is interepted as many as being an anti-war novel: it is not.What it does do is present the horrors and psychological aspects of war war without glory, but not without heroics and courage.Henry Fleming is in many ways an every-soldier: he joins the army out of patriotism and to prove his manhood; when the time comes to fight he doubts himself and runs away out of fear. It is at this point Henry comes to the crossroads of his young life: instead of completely deserting his unit he returns to his regiment and the battlefield out of a sense of duty and also out of shame and anger at himself. Once he returns he peforms heroically on the battlefield. I feel Crane's purpose in this books is not to make some overblown anti-war treatise like All Quiet on the Western Front, but to portray what he believed( and may soldiers who read the book agreed with him) to be the emotions and feelings of a soldier in war and also the true motivation behind courage and heroism. Crane shows through Henry, that heroism and courage in war is not something that comes naturally to man(or any animal, as shown by the squirrel scene in the forest) or can simply be conjured up out of blind obedience or extreme partiotism. Crane in fact argues the opposite: courage in war(or in and courage in reponse to violence) is something unatural, something that must be accomplished by overcoming our own natural fear and flight instincts.Henry is able to perform herocially because of anger, his sense of duty, his feeling of brotherhood toward his regiment and out of something deep inside himself that even Crane ( and nobody) could not totally understand . This is a great book about heroism, courage , brotherhood, duty and the psychological aspects of war. It is not a books that glorifies war ,nor it is it an anti-war treatise. It simply tells a story about war in a world where war exists.
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on April 19, 1999
This classic tale of a young man's coming-of-age during the American Civil War is a worthwhile read not only for the themes captured in its story but also for the place it holds in literary history. The basic storyline of the book (boy-becomes-man-during-war) has been recast many times in print and cinema (All Quiet on the Western Front, Platoon, etc), but The Red Badge of Courage stands out for two reasons.
First, it was the first popular novel to depict war in a realistic manner. Prior to this work, war was almost universally treated as a glorified and romantic undertaking. Not so in The Red Badge, where we are given a soldier's-eye view of combat. The battle scenes in this book and the descriptions of the dangers and hardships (both physical and emotional) faced by the soldiers may seem tame by today's standards of blood-and-gore violence, but they were quite radical to readers in the 1890's, when the book was first published. The Red Badge was thus a harbinger of the direction in which American popular fiction would move in the 20th century.
Secondly, the tale is much more than just a war story. It is primarily a psychological drama played out in the mind of Henry Fleming, the young soldier who is its main character. This psycho-centric perspective allows the story to encompass some of the great issues that were just beginning to enter the realm of popular knowledge at the time, and thus the main character comes to symbolize the entire human race at the end of the 19th century. We follow along with young Henry as he learns through hard experience that he does *not* occupy a privileged place in the world, as he falsely believes at the beginning of the story. As his mother tells him before he goes off to fight, "yer jest one little feller amongst a hull lot of others." This revelation reflects the feeling of all humanity as Darwin's theory of evolution began to gain wide acceptance. We also feel Henry's terror during his first battle and his later willingness to risk death in order to avoid the ridicule and scorn of his peers. The thoughts and fears running through this young soldier's mind, soon to be analyzed in more scientific ways by Sigmund Freud and others in the emerging field of psychoanalysis, are as historically realistic as the men and armaments running across the battlefield.
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on January 2, 2000
When we play chess, what is always the first piece we give up to attain triumph? The pawn, obviously. This front line soldier that is forever, so superfluous. Never mind what happens to that inferior pawn. In this Civil War novel, Stephen Crane invited me into the mind-set of just such a pawn. He came into contact with terror when he turned and ran for his life, and sensed a crushing shame at realizing his buddies stayed behind to fight the enemy. The burden of his shame was so overwhelming that he could not deal with it with everyday terms and mentally, created an alternate reality in which HE became the hero because he fled while his friends were the failures for thoughtlessly staying behind to die in vain. But by a twist of fate, his misfortunes were reversed and he discovered valor within himself. We even see the "pawn's" hatred for the "king", as he inwardly fumes at the arrogant general who insultingly refers to him and his companions as "mule drivers". This book is "confusing" because war is complex and both horrible and attractive to the main character, and I suppose it is "mind-numbing" because it does not give the prefect answers to the problems of war that it raises, but rather requires thoughtful and patient reading. Though the book dealed a lot with courage, take a look at the struggle with guilt and duty this youngster went through.
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on September 20, 2010
Few books cause such a visceral reaction as The Red Badge of Courage. Every time I read it, I can't put it down and usually finish it in one sitting.

The writing is superb. The themes are deep. The descriptions of battles are uncanny (though--unbelievably--Craine never fought in War). The book draws you in so deep, you almost feel like you are fighting (or running) along side Henry.

It really makes you stop and consider what it means to be a man. Stands with the movie, All Quiet on the Western Front as one of the deepest and most accurate depictions of war.
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on October 31, 2007
I read this book in school as a kid and I recently picked it up and read it again. It is a short work and only takes a few hours to read through. The style is definitely of the 19th century and you need to read it slowly and carefully to understand the nuances of the description and inner dialogs. Taking the time to do so is vastly rewarding-this is truly a great psycho-historical novel.

The setting is never explicitly stated by the author but historians agree it was during the disastrous Union campaign in Virginia during the battle of Chancellorsville. The protagonist is a young boy who joined the Union Army against his mother's will and he is intoxicated with visions of the nobility of the soldier's life. The novel admirably describes the boredom that the youth feels as he awaits his first battle, camped across the river (the Potomac) from the confederate Army and constantly moving around, marching and drilling, waiting and imagining his first battle where he hopes to become a hero.

When his regiment finally moves to the front line and comes under fire the boy drops his weapon and runs from the battle field scared out of his wits. He is not the only who acts cowardly but he rationalizes within his mind that the situation was hopeless and he is saving himself for the good of the army. So begins the inner conflict which drives the story line. While returning to the battlefield the youth encounters a huge group of Union Army soldiers running scared from the battle lines and confronts one of them, mired in self-contradiction and receives a minor head wound. This becomes his Red Badge of Courage as he later rejoins his unit and lies about his wounds, stating he'd received them from the enemy in battle.

On the second day of battle the boy becomes a war hero when he returns to the front and fights with a savage intensity. The author's description of the battle field and the blood and gore are realistic, especially within the historical context of the novel which is only a few decades removed from the conflict. The boy fights with courage and his regiment fights admirably but is driven back. As they retreat they are accused of being cowards as a group. They reply with curses and urges to join in fist-a-cuffs with their fellow soldiers who are mocking them. They are later chastised by the general to which they utter curses under their collective breaths.

During the battle, the boy becomes the flag bearer, wrestling the flag away from the original flag bearer who dies on the battle field with a death grip on the pole. He loses his fear which is replaced by an animal like savagery. Death becomes trivial, seconds seem like hours and the battlefield is covered with a smoky and deadly haze. The flag becomes the symbol of the boys patriotism but also causes him to be a bystander in the fight where he sees the conflict from a detached point of view. All the while the author paints the mental landscape of the heavy contradictions and inner turmoil that haunt the protagonist, who flips back in forth between coward and hero.

The men constantly cuss the generals and their plight, feeling they gave it hell but were powerless in front of fate. This is one of the central themes. The courage the boy gains is almost an insane one-completely detached from the death and destruction going on around him as he advances carrying the Union flag. The novel ends with the Union army retreating back across the river as the boy, now a war hero, continues to struggle with his inner turmoils and almost savage animal nature, wanting to forget and return to his old life, though his innocence is forever lost.

This is a very short novel but there is a lot going on. Although the author wasn't in the civil war, he interviewed many veterans and tried to make it as realistic as possible. He did a great job depicting the horrors and confusion of war, contrasting it constantly with the sublime. The true achievement and what makes this a great American novel is the incredible way in which the author describes the inner conflict going on in young Henry's head, as his youth is forever lost on the battlefield. There is a good reason why this is often required reading for historical fiction-a great read for all ages-especially sobering for those who would glorify war.
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on April 1, 2007
"The Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane is a good read. One thing that I thought that made the book a little hard to read was that Stephen Crane wrote his book using "the youth", "loud soldier", "tall soldier", and others, instead of the actual character's names. I read this book because it is a classic novel, and I had to do a ninth grade English book project. I had to read this book with a dictionary by my side, because of all the words that Stephen Crane uses that were unfamiliar to me. From this book I have learned that a "red badge of courage" is a wound from battle. I'm glad that there are some people willing to fight, and gain that red badge of courage. I wasn't so sure if the youth had that courage when he fled from battle. Most of this book is the youth pondering whether or not he has the courage to face battle without fleeing. After the youth had been smacked in the head by the soldier's gun, he then got his own "red badge of courage". After reading this book I now have more respect for the soldiers that fight for our country and that they fight with courage to risk death.
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on December 11, 2006
Mark LA-7

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane is a very interesting and well-written novel that I enjoyed reading. It is about a boy's physical and mental journey during the Civil War. The boy, Henry Fleming, starts out as a cowardly child who wants to join the war and turns into a courageous man. There are many things that happen to him that cause this change.

The book begins with Henry already in the army reminiscing about enlisting against his mother's will. After he does, she supports him, even though she did not agree with his decision. Henry, along with the other men in his regiment, is anxious for his first battle. He and the others are talking about if they would run away from a fight. Henry is unsure of his ability to fight the battle and not run away. He fights well for the beginning of his first battle, but when his regiment returns to the fight, he runs away. Scared, he meets many things that eventually make him decide to go back to the fight.

Over the course of the rest of the book, Henry sees many things that begin to make him stronger and more courageous. Throughout his journey, other soldiers help Henry. As he interacts with them, you can see the development and change of his character. The rest of his journey consists not only of physical, but also mental battles. Though the story takes place in the Civil War, most of the book is about the main character fighting himself.

One conflict in this story is the internal conflict Henry has throughout the book. He is constantly fighting himself over what he should do because for most of the book he is frightened. This is resolved as he gains courage and confidence. You should be able to see this at the end of the story.

I liked this book because it was very descriptive and its story was exciting. It had some themes that were very well portrayed in the book, such as courage. The plot was very interesting and the characters were described very well.
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