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The Theme of Courage in Red Badge of Courage
The Red Badge of Courage is a fictional psychological portrait of a young soldier named Henry Fleming, tracing the thread of his emotions and reactions to events that transpire during an unnamed battle of the Civil War (spark notes).
Book club met last night and we discussed The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane.
It was published in 1895 and is about the Civil War. Crane wanted to write about
not just the battles, but about the emotions of a soldier at war. It was considered
realistic writing for the time.
I had read The Red Badge of Courage before and also couldn’t remember
anything about it. But that was probably because I read it more than
50 years ago–(my mother let me read in my crib . . .).
At the first skirmish he fights and feels very proud. But when a larger battle
looms, he loses his courage and runs away. He wanders farther and farther from
his regiment and walks along with a group of wounded soldiers retreating back
from the front lines. A “tattered” badly wounded man befriends him and asks
with concern about Henry’s wounds–how bad are they?–how does he feel? This
annoys Henry since he’s not wounded at all, but a coward who ran, and he avoids
the tattered soldier, eventually leaving him– perhaps to die alone in the field.
Henry is worried that he might not be brave enough to fight when the time comes.
When a line of wounded soldiers passes by he sees one with a red blood stain on
his shirt. Henry admires that “red badge of courage”.