The Red Badge of Courage

By Stephen Crane,

Book cover of The Red Badge of Courage

Book description

Here is Stephen Crane's masterpiece, The Red Badge of Courage, together with four of his most famous short stories. Outstanding in their portrayal of violent emotion and quiet tension, these texts led the way for great American writers such as Ernest Hemingway.

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Why read it?

6 authors picked The Red Badge of Courage as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

A stone-cold classic in war writing, I studied this short novel at university and loved it. Crane never actually went to war and yet his depiction of men fighting in the American Civil War felt so real, that it gave me the confidence to write historical fiction, knowing I’d never experienced these things but my research and imagination could be brought to bear and hopefully transport the reader in the same way Crane did. It also began a lifelong obsession for me with the American Civil War. When I first started writing historical novels I knew I wanted to write…

Battles in this novel are written brilliantly and encompass the character Henry Flemings, and how he reacts to his surroundings is impressive. Readers can experience the Civil War’s fear, horror, dread, exhilaration, triumph, exhaustion, and hunger through Fleming’s eyes. As he navigates the war, Fleming is unsure whether he would be considered a man or a coward after the last shot is fired.

Another classic… and with good reason. It’s a masterpiece that puts a whole new slant on the American Civil War, its story and hero being far from the wonderful Gone With the Wind epic, but equally as riveting. It may not stir the juices of gallantry, but it makes you think and impels you to read it again and again.

I think it’s easy to see that there’s a prevailing theme in my choices of the best books I’ve read for here again, we have a controversial hero that tests the reader’s way of thinking and willingness to side with…

Why read The Red Badge of Courage written by a man who did not serve in the war, when there are so many letters and diaries written by bona fide soldiers who served in the war? Crane’s depiction of Henry Fleming, the soldier, is a work of fiction that uses Crane’s Modernist style to tell the story of a soldier who is gripped by fear of being in combat. Crane’s narration highlights the main character’s isolation and psychological crises. The mental state of the soldier in the book more accurately depicts the mind of soldiers in war than letters and…

From Robert's list on the heart of the American Civil War.

As a reader, you spend zero time inside the minds of generals as they pour over maps and hash out strategy. Rather, The Red Badge of Courage focuses on a single character, 18-year-old private, Henry Fleming. And that’s the magic of Crane’s masterpiece. This is war seen from a perspective that is idiosyncratic, intimate, and deeply vulnerable.

Crane was born more than six years after the end of the Civil War, yet this gifted writer nevertheless produced its quintessential novel. An exponent of “naturalism”—think of it as “realism,” but meaner—Crane describes the plight of Henry Fleming, a private who flees from battle in fear, becomes wracked by guilt, and seeks redemption.

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