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The Red Badge of Courage
The Red Badge of Courage
This most famous story of the Civil War is considered the first modern war novel. Paradoxically, Stephen Crane never intended THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE to be a history of the Civil War; rather, he was writing a psychological portrayal of fear. As seen through the eyes of the "youth" Henry Fleming, the novel becomes cosmic in scope because of its concern with the enduring themes of isolation, identity, mortality, guilt, fear of failure, and maturity.

Ironically, when Crane wrote the book he had never seen a war, much less fought in one. Further, the Civil War was six years in the past when Crane was born; nonetheless, Crane's portrait of war was so vivid that several early reviewers were adamant that only a war-scarred battle veteran could have written it. When the action begins, Henry Fleming has the traditional clichˇd romantic notions of the glory of war: he eagerly anticipates the praise he assumes will be heaped on him for bravery on the battlefield. But by the end of narrative, Henry has tempered his enthusiasm for the splendor of war with a mature understanding of the terror and horror of battle and the true nature of courage. As Henry questions his values and mindless assumptions during his battlefield experiences, his innocence is supplanted by experience. He forges his identity and becomes more able to judge himself dispassionately.Crane's overall style is realistic, almost journalistic. The term "impressionist" is often used to describe Crane's vivid renderings of moments of visual beauty and uncertainty.

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The American Novel