A young soldier battles his inner demons on a Civil War battlefield struggling with insecurity and fear. Crane affords us a ringside seat into the mind of a boy transforming into a man.
The novel’s protagonist, Henry Fleming is oft referred to as ‘the youth’. As he confrontss the realities of battle, he begins to doubt himself and considers fleeing. The battle within is more difficult than the one raging around him as he struggles to justify his decisions as righteous.
Friend to the youth is Wilson, also known as the loud one. Without intention, he is acts as role model to Fleming as he acts courageously and later cares for the wounded man with total devotion.
Jim Conklin, the tall one shares gossip and fears he will not survive the battle. He is the man who accepts his fate without question and shakes up Fleming.
As he gazed around him the youth felt a flash of astonishment at the blue, pure sky and the sun gleaming on the trees and fields. It was surprising that Nature had gone tranquilly on with her golden process in the midst of so much devilment.
Again he thought that he wished he was dead. He believed that he envied a corpse. Thinking of the slain, he achieved a great contempt for some of them, as if they were guilty for thus becoming lifeless. They might have been killed by lucky chances, he said, before they had had opportunities to flee or before they had been really tested.
When the enemy seemed falling back before him and his fellows, he went instantly forward like a dog who, seeing his foes lagging, turns and insists upon being pursued. And when he was compelled to retire again, he did it slowly, sullenly, taking steps of wrathful despair.
Mr. Crane’s life seems so interesting that I no doubt we’d have plenty to discuss. That he seemed to be a guardian to the underdog makes him attractive. Perhaps he could read aloud some of his short stories ad give me a pointer or two.
My rating for The Red Badge of Courage is a 7 out of 10.
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