Summary Of The Red Badge Of Courage By Stephen Crane

The novel The Red Badge of Courage is written by Stephen Crane. He was an American poet, novelist, and a short story writer. Stephen Crane (1871-1900) was born in 1871 in Newark, New Jersey. Stephen Crane was also one of the most innovative writers during this time period. He began writing at the age of four. He wrote his first known story at the age of fourteen. He would often skip some classes to go play baseball with some of his friends. He had eventually started to struggle as being a free-lance writer. Stephen Crane wanted to write a book about a young private who on,y thought good about the war and wanted to be in one and then once he was in one, he wanted to get out of one and that book is called “The Red Badge of Courage”. He took a long trip to the west to meet with some newspaper people and had a conference and he was writing a new book while he was on the way to talk about his old book. He was educated at two colleges, Lafayette College and Syracuse University. He got a job as a freelance reporter, writing articles about the slums of New York. Without steady work as a reporter, Crane, himself, was a poor man and lived in The Bowery, New York's worst slum. Stephen Crane had died at the age of 28 of tubeurculosis and he did many things in the time that he was alive. 

In the The Red Badge of Courage readers meet Henry Flemming who is about to join a Union Regiment during the civil war. Henry Flemming is a new soldier who is worried about his bravery because there is a rumor the regiment isa chance that his regiment might go into the war. He is scared and doesn’t want to die. The only reason Henry was drawn to enlist was because he wanted to become a war hero. The main conflict is internal. When Henry has to go into battle and risk his life. He realizes that there is no turning back, and he could not go and say never mind anymore.

At the beginning he gets scared and runs off into the woods because he does not want to get shot. He ends up running into a teammate and his teammate grabs his gun and hits him on the head for running away and being a coward. The climax occurs when he is enraged by another soldier, Jim Conklin and takes out his anger on the other people, impressing his leader. 

Additionally, Wilson his friend, and him hear another officer say that the 304th regiment fights like “mule drivers.” The two friends set out to disprove what he had said to them. After continuing to face more adversity from the lieutenants, they work harder and harder to become the best in the regiment. The resolution occurs when Henry finally realizes joining the war is not about reputation or becoming a hero, it is about fighting for a cause that is worth fighting for and he was happy that he did it. At the end of the novel, Flemming reflects on the what happened in the war and during it and on how he learned the meaning of true courage. The Red Badge of Courage uses the language of machines, labor, and industry to describe war. Henry dreams about a classical idealized kind of war. But that kind of romanticized war, shows heroic action, is a thing of the fictional past: it has no relation to an industrial war such as the Civil War, in which individual soldiers become cogs in a much larger machine. As The Red Badge of Courage reveals, the war machine is designed to move massive armies and clear out soldiers. The war machine makes Henry's hopes for personal glory see gone and not even within reach. 

Stephen Crane also uses the theme of a mechanized war to make a grim comment on the industrialism of the late 19th century and its dehumanizing effect on laborers. Because of his romantic view of war, Henry initially thinks he'll achieve manhood through fighting. And for him, and many other soldiers, manhood seems to hang in the balance of each battle: they feel weak when the enemy has them trapped, and manly when they fight and win. By the end of the novel, after facing the realities of war, Henry is only a few days older and still has some childish characteristics, but he feels like a man because he is in the war. He feels like he has grown up throughout the war and found out who he really is and what he stands for. “Henry finally dreams of tranquility and peace rather than war”. He forgets his boastfulness for a quiet more mature sense of self-determination. Henry realizes that nature is merely indifferent to human concerns. This is very apparent when Henry sees ants feeding on the face of a dead soldier. This unsympathetic view of nature, common to Naturalism, the literary movement that Stephen Crane pioneered, comes from the late-19th-century fascination with Darwin's theory of natural selection. And the fight for survival in a hostile world. 

From popping musketry to the belching of artillery explosions to the 'devotional silence' of the woods, The Red Badge of Courage gets much of its descriptive power from its descriptions because of all the sounds that they use throughout the book. The noises of battle give the readers a type of feel for what it was like during a war. “For a low-ranking infantryman like Henry, noise is his only news of the battle”. The narrative describes bombs going off as the armies are talking with each other. All this noise scares Henry and he can't understand what's going on around him and loses a sense of what’s happening . At the end of the story Henry has eternal peace. He ends up realizing that what he did was for the good and he is glad that he did it. He is more of a man now that he has now experience what war life is like.

Works Cited

  • Bloom, Harold. “Background to The Red Badge of Courage.” The Red Badge of Courage, Chelsea House, 2007. Bloom's Literature,
  • Bloom, Harold. “The Red Badge of Courage.” The Red Badge of Courage, Chelsea House, 2007. Bloom's Literature,
  • Bloom, Harold. “The Red Badge of Courage.” Stephen Crane, Chelsea House, 2002. Bloom's Literature,
  • Buinicki, Martin T. “The Red Badge of Courage.” Realism and Regionalism, 1865–1914, Facts On File, 2010. Bloom's Literature,
  • Burt, Daniel S. “The Red Badge of Courage.” The Novel 100, Revised Edition, Facts On File, 2010. Bloom's Literature,
  • Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage. Dover Publications , 1990.
  • Smith, Joyce Caldwell. “Heroism in The Red Badge of Courage.” Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature, 3-Volume Set, Facts On File, 2010. Bloom's Literature,
  • Smith, Joyce Caldwell. “How to Write about The Red Badge of Courage.” Bloom's How to Write about Stephen Crane, Chelsea House, 2017. Bloom's Literature,
  • Smith, Joyce Caldwell. “Religion in The Red Badge of Courage.” Encyclopedia of Themes in Literature, 3-Volume Set, Facts On File, 2010. Bloom's Literature,
  • Weber, Diane R. “The Red Badge of Courage.” Student's Encyclopedia of Great American Writers, Volume 2, Facts On File, 2010. Bloom's Literature, 
16 August 2021
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