Book Review: Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Book Review

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This is a book review on The Red Badge of Courage y Stephen Crane. It represents the American Civil War from the point of view of an ordinary soldier. It has been named the first modern war novel. In England readers thought that the book was written by a veteran soldier – the text was so believable.

Crane’s realistic war novel The Red Badge of Courage represents the American Civil War from the point of view of an ordinary soldier. It has been named the first modern war novel. In England readers thought that the book was written by a veteran soldier – the text was so believable. Crane rejects this theory by saying that he got his ideas from the football field. The story is set during the American Civil War. Henry Fleming enrolls as a soldier in the Union army. He has dreamed of battles and glory all his life, but his expectations are devastated in his encounter with the enemy when he witnesses the chaos on the battle field and starts to fear that the regiment was leaving him behind. He flees from the battle.

“Since he had turned his back upon the fight his fears had been wondrously overblown. Death about to thrust him between the shoulder blades was far more dreadful than death about to smite him between the eyes. When he thought of it later, he conceived the impression that it is better to view the appalling than to be merely within hearing. The noises of the battle were like stones; he believed himself liable to be crushed.” (Crane Chapter 6)

What Crane created was not a usual Civil War story. Crane’s approach was astonishingly unconventional. He wrote about the violence and confusion of the battlefield. While some European novelists, such as Tolstoy and Emile Zola, had written about war in a gritty and toughened way, most war novels by American writers at the time were simply adventure stories or romances. Crane, however, went beyond giving a practical picture of war. He focused on the effects of war on the human mind. Crane himself called the novel a “psychological portrayal of fear.”

The novel’s style is impressionistic, reflecting this subjective approach. Impressionism, a term borrowed from the fine arts, submits to a highly personal way of seeing.

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