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The Red Badge of Courage
by Stephen Crane

When Henry Fleming joined the Union army during the American Civil War, he believes in the romantic dream of the battlefield as the place where men find honor and valor. But when his regiment finally faces the Confederate army, Fleming is frightened and deserts. When he eventually rejoins the army, he is mistaken for one of the wounded, but in his heart Henry knows that he has yet to earn his “red badge”. Henry eventually finds his regiment again and discovers his courage, and finally becomes a full-fledged soldier.

As I read The Red Badge of Courage, it was easy to see why the novel is one of the great American classics. Stephen Crane has a beautiful pen that creates these brilliant, image-filled descriptions. In an era before film, the text’s dedication to creating a visual story really brings the battle to life. I loved it. But pretty words aren’t the only reason this story has endured, of course – it is also excellent for its psychological insight. Henry Fleming’s journey from coward to soldier is his coming of age and his growth from boy to man. It’s full of insights into the horrors of war – how desperately pointless many of the deaths are, the tedium of waiting, the complete lack of glory in battle – which is all the more impressive when one learns that Stephen Crane was not a veteran of the Civil War, and had in fact never been to a battlefield when he wrote the book.

So there are certainly a lot of things to praise about the novel. Novella? It’s quite short. But if I’m being completely honest, while there’s much I respect about the work it doesn’t change the fact that I didn’t actually enjoy reading it. (Well, listening to it – I had an audio version of the story.) It wasn’t all that entertaining – but can I really complain about that? It’s not meant to be amusing in the same way that a Neil Gaiman book is, and I shouldn’t fault it for that. But can I call it a great book when I also found it boring?

Well, I think I can. On the one hand, Shakespeare’s plays are classics, and I rarely find them dull. On the other, Don Quixote is a brilliant story but there are some chapters duller than watching paint dry! I guess I would describe The Red Badge of Courage like this: it’s a well-written book, and I’m glad I read it, because it’s a well-crafted story with some awesome descriptions – but I sure as heck don’t ever want to read it again.

3.5 out of 5 stars

To read more about The Red Badge of Courage , buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
2011: Another little break for school…
2010: Happy Thanksgiving!
2009: Going on hiatus…
2008: Macbeth: The Graphic Novel by Classical Comics


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