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The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage


by Stephen Crane

The Red Badge of Courage Theme of Warfare

The Red Badge of Courage takes place over the course of a four-day battle during the U.S. Civil War. The novel is famous for its portrayal of war from a single perspective, that of a young, inexperienced soldier, rather than from a broader vantage point. Stephen Crane explores the psychological battles faced by an individual, which are ultimately more important than the physical battles fought in the field. Crane took a hard, realistic look at war, sparing us neither the gore nor the horror in his descriptions of fighting, injury, and death. His portrayal is so graphic that the novel is considered by most to be anti-war.

Questions About Warfare

  1. How do we know what Crane thinks about war? Where are his opinions/feelings most evident?
  2. Why is Jim Conklin’s death so important to Henry and to the book as a whole?
  3. Why does Henry enlist in the first place? Do the reasons he cites seem truthful, or not?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Henry’s anger at the injustice of the world cause him to be without feeling. This is the only way he can battle "courageously" at the end of the novel. This sort of emotionless stupor is what makes war possible in the novel.

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