About My Book Reviews

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

The Red Badge of Courage
Title: Red Badge of Courage

Author: Stephen Crane

Published: 1895

Genre: Classic Fiction

Grade Level: Adult

-Trigger Warning: Violence

-Movie Rating: R


Read by: Frank Muller (R.I.P.)

Length: 4hrs 33min

Recommend: Yes!

Blurb (from goodreads):

Henry Fleming has joined the Union army because of his romantic ideas of military life, but soon finds himself in the middle of a battle against a regiment of Confederate soldiers. Terrified, Henry deserts his comrades. Upon returning to his regiment, he struggles with his shame as he tries to redeem himself and prove his courage.

My Scores:

Writing Style: Solid

I will admit that I had a hard time with the writing style, but it had nothing to do with whether it was written well. It was because it was written more than 100 years ago. It took a little more work to look up outdated words and understand the historical context of certain situations (which often meant stopping the flow of the story to read lengthy footnotes in the back of the book).

Crane's style is unique in comparison to other works written during this time. It's very dark, focused on narrative thought, and pulled no punches. Sometimes it feels very cluttered, like you aren't exactly sure where you are or what was going on. This may explain why so many people in the reviews hate the story. However, I think it's is done on purpose.

In order to get a real feel for what it’s like to be a solider, Crane uses one POV for the entirety of the story. So, the reader never gets the full picture of the entire war. We never get to see where our MC fits into the big scene overall. Worse still, usually our MC is pulled from one place to the next for no apparent reason, which obviously causes frustration not only for the MC but for the reader as well.

Characters: Forgettable

Crane very seldomly uses names in this story, instead referring to characters as ‘the youth’ or ‘the tattered solider.’ This was probably done on purpose as well, to simulate the strong bond that is created between men during wartime while not really being able to get to know them. Again, it creates a feeling of chaos because it makes it very hard to keep track of who was who.

What I did like was the detailed narration in the POV of the MC, which made this work so popular in the first place. (People thought it was so good that Crane must have gone through the war personally, even though he just wasn't born early enough.)

Plot: Slow Burn

Crane was probably one of the first to try to remove the romanticism of war from the public’s view. While that message may be taken for granted now, it was very much a unique view for the time.

The death and gore of all these men was coupled with pointlessness, which made it all the more hard to swallow.

Overall: Enjoyable

Overall, I’m glad to have read it. While I understand why most people find it to be a hard read, I also think there was a direct purpose in each of Crane’s writing decisions.

I also wonder, with the civil war ending just 30 years prior to the release of the novel, how much of a stir his story really caused.  

War is a pointless waste of life.

Goodreads Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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