Leaving his widowed mother alone on their New York State farm, Henry Fleming, his head filled with visions of the heroic deeds of epic literature and popular myth, joins the Union Army only to enter the decidedly unheroic world of the military camp: the boredom of daily drills and the anonymity of military life. The “youth,” as Crane prefers to call him, persists in his delusions as well as in his fear that he will not measure up to his grandiose and utterly unrealistic vision of himself as a hero.
Dismayed by reality’s failure to meet his expectations and frightened by the chaos that swirls around him, Henry runs from his first battle. Hit on the head by another fleeing Union soldier, Henry receives the ironic wound, his “little red badge of courage,” that gains him reentry into his regiment, with no questions asked. On the second day, Henry fights like a “wildcat,” earning the admiration of his fellows and the praise of his lieutenant.
The “quiet manhood” that Henry gains in the final chapter is another of his delusions, one which the reader may mistakenly come to share if he fails to note Crane’s subtle irony. The back and forth movement of Crane’s plot, the pendulumlike swings toward and away from battle, with experience at one pole and reflection, especially rationalization, at the other, parallel the back and forth movement of Henry’s impressionistic perceptions about reality and about himself.
His misperceptions derive literally from the obscuring smoke of battle but figuratively, or psychologically, from his insatiable need to see himself and his world as meaningful even as experience teaches him quite the opposite lesson, that the world is flatly indifferent to man. The discrepancy between Henry’s self-portrait of the young man as hero and Crane’s depiction of him as a small, vainglorious, and nearly nameless cog in the military machine (or more generally in the meaningless, mechanistic world) serves as the measure of the author’s ironic vision.
Bloom, Harold, ed. Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Examines style, technique, narrative method, and psychological aspects of Crane’s novel. Places the novel in the epic tradition.
Cazemajou, Jean. “The Red Badge of Courage: The ‘Religion of Peace’ and the War Archetype.” In Stephen Crane in Transition: Centenary Essays, edited by Joseph Katz. Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1972. Finds a balance in the novel between a metaphoric view of war as chaos and confusion, and a view of a world at peace. War and peace function more as archetypes than as realities in the novel.
LaFrance, Marston. A Reading of Stephen Crane. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1971. Identifies Crane’s genius not in creating literary naturalism, but rather in his psychological portrayal of Henry Fleming. Praises Crane’s use of third-person limited point of view.
Mitchell, Lee Clark, ed. New Essays on ‘The Red Badge of Courage.’ New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Traces the novel’s evolution; concludes that the original draft served as an outline to be expanded into the 1895 version. Identifies Crane’s abstraction of the Civil War from its historical context as a distinctive contribution to American literature.
Solomon, Eric. Stephen Crane: From Parody to Realism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966. Credits Crane with countering a tradition of dashing heroes in war fiction by using parody and with giving the war novel a new form that afterward became the model. Maintains that Crane selects his war stories for their value as fiction, creating rather than reliving war experiences.
+ All The Red Badge Of Courage Essays:
- Marketing Research on Red Bull Energy Drink in Vietnam Market
- The Red-Headed Aborigine
- Red Scare, KKK, Civil War Brought Fear to America
- Restaurant Review: Red Arrow Diner in Milford
- Mars: The Red Planet
- A Story About Courage.
- Red Bull
- Internet Marketing Case Study: Red Lobster
- Red Bull Analysis
- The Red Convertible
- Red Bull Environmental Scan
- The Red Scare and McCarthyism
- "The Red Wheelbarrow" Explication
- Red Bull -- Research/Marketing Strategy
- Company of Wolves-Little Red Riding Hood
- Red Scarf Girl Essay
- Marketing and Red Bull
- Moral Heroism and Courage
- Restaurant Review: The Red Arrow Diner
- H.G. Wells: ‘The Red Room’ and ‘The Cone’
- Scandal of Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds
- Gender Stereotypes in Little Red Cap and The Grandmother
- Evreed, The Red Warrior
- Red Blood Cells
- Comparing Shakespeare's 'Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day' and Burns' 'A Red Red Rose'
- Analysis and Reaction of Red Leaves Falling
- Themes of Courage, Prejudice, and Maturity in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird
- Character Bravery and Courage: In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
- Myth of Courage Exposed in The Things They Carried
- Mother Courage and Capitulation
- Escape from the Red Sea
- How are tension and suspense created in The Signalman and The Red
- Courage in Marketing
- Analysis of Red, Green, and Murder
- "The Red Convertible" by Louise Erdrich
- Red Bull Marketing Research
- Psychological Analysis of Little Red Riding Hood
- Little Red Riding Hood Analysis
- Native Americans Pontiac, Red Jacket
- The Red Scare
- Unwavering, Impervious, Undaunted Courage
- McCarthyism aka The Red Scare in Herblock's The Crucible
- Speaking of Courage
- The Mighty Red Bull in the World of Marketing
- Photo Enforced-Red Light Camera Controversy
- Analysis of Oh, my love is like a red, red rose, by Robert Burns
- Social Marketing - Australian Red Cross Blood Service
- Red Bull Marketing
- Red Cross Management
- Red Baron Case
- Andy Thomson: A Political Leader with Courage
- Business Strategies - Microsoft and Red Hat
- Description, Function, Attribution, and Analysis of a Red-figure Type B Kylix
- Case Analysis Product RED
- Four Approaches to International Staffing- Microsoft and Red Cross
- Leadership Style of the American Red Cross
- My Life as a Furry Red Monster by Kevin Clash
- Red Bull
- Red Lobster Case Study
- Edgar Allan Poe's The Masque Of The Red Death
- Product Red
- Red Lobster Analysis
- Red Lobster Moves to China
- Chemical Spill Damage: The Red River Rhine
- The Red Cross in East Africa
- Raise the Red Lantern
- Red Bull
- Questions and Answers Forming a Summary of Red Scarf Girl
- Red Bull
- The Second Red Scare
- The Message of Courage in Schindler's List by Thomas Keneally
- Tension and Fear in The Old Nurse's Tale and The Red Room
- Ronald Reagan's Courage
- Poetry Analysis: "The Red Wheelbarrow"
- Moby Dick and The Masque of the Red Death: True American Romanticism
- Vermicomposting is the Red Wiggler
- American Red Cross
- The Variations in Little Red Riding Hood
- Anemia Decreases the Number of Red Blood Cells
- Gothic Genre: The Red Room versus The Monkey's Paw
- The Understated Narrator of The Masque of the Red Death
- Red, White, and Blue Fireworks
- The Main Characteristics for Success is Courage
- The Red Convertible
- History of Red Bull, an Energy Drink
- The American Red Cross