In the first chapter of The Red Badge of Courage, what words does the author use to show a sarcastic tone?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Stephen Crane inserts a bit of humor in the otherwise deadly serious first chapter of his Civil War novel, The Red Badge of Courage. The soldiers are bored from the relentless drilling, and rumors run rampant that soon the regiment will move. Young Henry Fleming wonders how he will fare in his first action: He wonders whether he will stand and fight or if he will run. He remembers advice that his mother gave him, and her final reminder to "be a good boy." He also reflects on the only Southern soldier he has ever seen: a picket across the river that speaks to him one night.

He was a slightly ragged man, who spat skillfully between his shoes and possessed a great fund of bland and infantile assurance. The youth liked him personally.
    "Yank," the other had informed him, "yer a right dum good feller." This sentiment, floating to him upon the still air, had made him temporarily regret war.

The likable Confederate soldier was having a bit of fun with The Youth, who had made himself visible to his enemy, by calling him a "right dum good feller."

espnlive3456 | Student

In The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane reveals a world long lost.  A world filled with bloody violence and chaos.  A world that was the Civil War Era.  In the first chapter, Crane remains serious, but not without some comedic relief.  One veteran said of Henry, "yer a right dum good feller."  Also, when Henry is expecting a romantic answer from his mother about war, she bluntly tells him to send back his socks when they get holes in them and not to drink and swear and to be a good boy.  This is comedic relief, but not necessarily sarcasm. 

Sarcasm is defined by comments that are opposite of the blatantly obvious, or sharp comments that most people know to be untrue.  There is really none of this in the first chapter.  The ideas expressed in the first chapter are mostly romantic, how Henry thinks he will save people in war with his "eagle-eyed prowess."  And of indecision, as Henry is not sure if he will fight or run.  But sarcasm is not really implemented by Crane in the first chapter.

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The Red Badge of Courage

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