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The Red Badge of Courage (Bantam Classics) Paperback – March 1, 1981
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Mass Market Paperback, Special Edition, Unabridged
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"The Red Badge Of Courage has long been considered the first great 'modern' novel of war by an American—the first novel of literary distinction to present war without heroics and this in a spirit of total irony and skepticism."—Alfred Kazin
From the Publisher
First published in 1895, America's greatest novel of the Civil War was written before 21-year-old Stephen Crane had "smelled even the powder of a sham battle." But this powerful psychological study of a young soldier's struggle with the horrors, both within and without, that war strikes the reader with its undeniable realism and with its masterful descriptions of the moment-by-moment riot of emotions felt by me under fire. Ernest Hemingway called the novel an American classic, and Crane's genius is as much apparent in his sharp, colorful prose as in his ironic portrayal of an episode of war so intense, so immediate, so real that the terror of battle becomes our own ... in a masterpiece so unique that many believe modern American fiction began with Stephen Crane.
"The Red Badge Of Courage has long been considered the first great 'modern' novel of war by an American--the first novel of literary distinction to present war without heroics and this in a spirit of total irony and skepticism." -- Alfred Kazin
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It's a short book and because I was young, I just wanted to get to the end to know what happened. The one thing I learned through reading this short novel and in the professor's discussion after, is that one cannot tear into a great book of literature the way one reads through a best seller (finishing it in one night, reading it by the glow of a flashlight under the covers). It is not formulaic.
A classic work of fiction such as The Red Badge of Courage, takes many readings before you can say that you have truly read it and enjoyed it. Like a gourmet meal, you need to digest this book mindfully, reading slowly and noting the richness of its imagery and the life-likeness of the description. It is verisimilitude at its finest -- but as tight as prose can be. Sparse and yet rich, layered and textured in imagery and language.
It's the story of a boy who went off and joined the Civil War without knowing that he signed on for a voyage of self-discovery and a coming to his own. He will know himself far deeper than it was comfortable for him to know himself but in the end, because he became acquainted with himself, the vastness of his potential for bravery and cowardice, he comes out a "hero" -- one who went to fight and fought valiantly despite his fear. It is a retelling of the hero's journey and it never grow old or cliché.
Of course, in the end, you will come to believe that war is not a good thing even if you manage to survive it.
Do you know someone who is thinking of joining the military or the armed forces? They would benefit from a reading of this book. They will at least sign up having an inkling of what could happen to them.
I find Crane's writing choppy and stilted. But it is perhaps this writing style that adds a sense of realism to his novel. The young Crane, who never saw battle and was writing more than a decade after the end of the Civil War, displays an astonishing talent for introspection. He creates with Henry Fleming a timeless protagonist in a coming of age novel that remains an American classic.