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I have not read The Red Badge of Courage in many years, I do, however, remember enjoying the book as a required reading as a Junior in high school. Wow! That was a long time ago!
The novel is truly a worthy novel, but it is one that many students do, indeed, find too slow. Unfortunately, few high school students--especially in some areas--are "mature readers." They look for many of the same things in literature that they seek in movies. Sadly.
One teacher has had success with this book when the students read it aloud....
Of course. It's a great book. The irony of it is that Crane never fought in the Civil War. He was born in 1871, five years after the war ended.
After the book came out several actual veterans of the Civil War said, mistakenly, that they had served with him. That's how believable the book and author are.
It's a tour-de-force of credibility. It captures the modern moral dilemmas in war like no other work. The writing is simply beautiful. It is framed so well that it could be about the Trojan War or the Civil War or the wars in Iraq, that's how universal it's voice is.
I think most kids can relate to the fear of failure which almost cripples Henry into inaction. When you approach it from the standpoint of expectations (soldiers are supposed to be brave, full of unwavering courage, and always know just what to do to save the world) and fears (darkness, being alone, failing to act when the time calls for it, pain, death, and any other number of things that may frighten a young boy who is thrust into the line of fire) it makes an impression on the reader. Yes, it is slow, but it is a pyschological study of this young man's experience as a boy-warrior. It is a comparison of what he wants to be versus what he fears he will be and then it blossoms into what he actually becomes. I relate to Henry, and many of my country boy students do, too.
The book is one of my favorite novels about the Civil War, but it doesn't adapt well to middle or high school classrooms today. Most kids find it too slow, and I have never had much success teaching it.
I never liked the book because of its style. Of course I was made to read it. The message did make an impact on me that war is not glorious, and all men are not warriors. Having been a member of the Baby Boomer generation, I was raised on war movies. None of the characters were ever anything but brave and devoted. Once I got into the story itself, I came to realize the message overrode the style. Men are people, and people are not always brave. Bloodshed and violence are frightening, not glorious. Not everyone is cut out to be a soldier. To those who are, I appreciate them more because I could not do their job.
Personally, I like the novella, but I do not enjoy teaching it. Even though it is a brief work and about war, when I've taught it, my students (high schoolers) have difficulty appreciating Crane's worldview and style. I like it because it is a modern style for its time period and because Crane effectively demonstrates what war/trauma does to the human mind.
I like it because it has many facts and feelings woven into an entrancing web of fiction and fact. Crane has just blended so many topics and ideas into a seamless text, creating a book about the civil war, the human mind, humans in general, and so many other topics. I love this book, and would reccomend it to anyone who is just surfing around and happens to see this post.
I liked the book The Red Badge of Courage because it was a story that does not make every soldier seem brave. The story is around a boy who volunteers to serve in the military during the Civil War. At first he thinks that he is going to be brave and be like the other soldiers. The closer he gets to fighting, the more he begins to wonder if he is going to be able to stand and fight or run.
The boy’s thoughts are internalized fear and he badly wants to prove himself to be brave. For the boy it is initially a romantic notion, but when he sees the reality of blood shed and people killed and wounded, the romance is gone. The outfits are itchy, they sweat, they bleed, they scream, and some run.
The book does not make war look fun or beautiful, but shows that even men have times when they are uncertain if they can stand and fight or will run.
To me, the red badge of courage is the blood worn in combat and that pours from men around the boy.
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