The Red Badge of Courage
Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage about the Civil War not long after the war had ended. And get this: he didn't even fight in the war. What gives?
|19th-Century Literature||19th-Century American Literature|
|American Literature||19th-Century American Literature|
All American Literature
|Author||Crane - Stephen Crane|
Man and the Natural World
Men and Masculinity
Respect and Reputation
War and Warfare
The Civil War is exactly where Stephen Crane takes us in The Red Badge of Courage.
But would it ruin it if we told you that Stephen Crane never even went to war? [Stephen Crane watching re-enactments on couch]
Brace yourself, because that’s exactly what we’re going to do: Stephen Crane never even
went to war.
Does that fact change your view of the book and its celebrated realism?
Some people are miffed. They think authors who haven't experienced war shouldn't write [actor gets tomato thrown at them]
about it, especially from such a personal angle.
Everything in Red Badge of Courage is filtered through Henry Fleming’s eyes, but how can
someone who never lived through it know what those eyes saw? [Crane holds two eyeballs on strings]
From a perspective that close, it’s impossible to tell where Crane’s knowledge ends and
his embellishments begin. [zombie walks across screen]
But maybe those sticklers are just killjoys in general.
See, there’s another camp that doesn’t care Crane never fought a battle in his life.
Tolkien never went to Middle-Earth, as far as we know. [Tolkien throws ring into lava]
And Henry Fleming may be fictional, but the thoughts and feelings he’s having are super
authentic. What matters is that Crane changed the way
we think about war. [Civil War re-enactment]
He showed us the harsh reality of battle through the eyes of soldier, instead of a distant
birds-eye view that made the whole thing seem kind of poetic.
We don’t know about you, but we fail to see the beauty of living in a trench filled
with mud, blood, body parts, and disease.
Does the fact that Stephen Crane never went to war invalidate his work?
Or does it hardly matter? Shmoop amongst yourselves.