Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane

Here we have the newest installment of the WEM project!  I must admit that American literature is one of my really weak areas, and the Civil War is too, and this is on my CC list, so it was good for me to read it.

This is a psychological description of exactly what one boy soldier in the Civil War goes through, from one moment to the next, in his first few days of real war.  At first he is full of dreams of glory and itching to prove himself; then he's terrified or angry or exalted with pride.  His self-justifications and inability to admit mistakes are so real and human, just like what we all half-consciously do all the time.

I'm amazed at how Stephen Crane's imagination allowed him to write a book that seems so real that many Civil War veterans assumed that he was one of them (one claimed to have fought with him at Antietam!); and yet Crane never saw a battle at all.  He was born in 1871 and grew up listening to stories of the war--and he managed to write a book that was perfectly realistic and psychological, with no trace of the sentimentality or overblown regard for the glories of war that we might expect to find.  It's a modern book written at least 20 years before that kind of thing came into fashion, and it avoids the modern error we occasionally find of wallowing in muck for the sake of shock value.  It's an amazing accomplishment.
 

1 comment:

Monika said...

I have never read this book, but always felt I should. Thanks for the review, it sounds like it was a powerful read.