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The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage


by Stephen Crane

The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 1 Summary

  • We meet young Henry Fleming and the group of Union soldiers that he’s hanging out with circa the Civil War.
  • Jim Conklin, a.k.a. "the Tall Soldier," announces that he overheard their superiors discussing the regiment moving to battle soon.
  • The men argue over whether or not this is true; this regiment hasn’t been to battle yet, so they’re eager for some action.
  • The men swear a LOT, but it’s the 1800s, so words like "thunder" are all over the place. (Go ahead, try and bring this back…you thundering thunderer!)
  • We now turn our focus to Henry, in whose head we’ll be spending most of our time. Henry remembers how he got here in the first place: he had great dramatic, romantic visions of doing grand, violent, and "masculine" things. That’s why he signed up to fight for the Union in the Civil War.
  • Henry recalls his mother’s advice that he not go to war and die. Still, the morning he left for battle, she told him not to try and stay alive on her account. In other words, if there came a time when it was his duty to die, he should go ahead and die.
  • Henry also thinks that all the girls will look at him differently in his uniform.
  • Anyway, he finally got to the military and ever since has been sitting around with these other guys, all wondering when they’re going to fight.
  • Suddenly, as he’s sitting there, he has a thought. A bad thought. What if, when the opportunity for battle finally comes, he’s a coward? What if he runs away?
  • Henry starts to sweat. Nobody else looks like they’re worried about running away.
  • Henry tries to make a joke about "running away." As in "Hey, wouldn’t if be funny if we all just ran away?"
  • Jim Conklin, "the Tall Soldier" says he figures he’ll fight if everyone else fights and run if everybody else runs. (He’s kind of a realist. More on that later.)

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