Illustration of Henry Fleming in a soldier's uniform in front of a confederate flag and an American flag

The Red Badge of Courage

by Stephen Crane

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The Red Badge of Courage

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The Work

The Red Badge of Courage is a novel in which Henry Fleming, “the Youth,” struggles with the question of whether he will fight or run when he sees his first real battle. After it begins, he stands firm for the first charge, then runs when the Confederate forces charge again. He is ashamed, wishing he had a bloody bandage, a “red badge of courage.” Eventually, he returns to his outfit and becomes an obsessed fighter.

This book was first attacked when it was removed from the American Library Association list of approved books in 1896. However, its removal was more of a response to author Stephen Crane than to the book itself. As Crane was writing The Red Badge of Courage, he published Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, a gritty, realistic look at life in New York’s slums that brought many calls for censorship against Crane. Also, Civil War veterans objected to a young man with no military experience writing detailed battle accounts. Nevertheless, the novel enjoyed a sustained popularity, occasionally being objected to by religious or antiwar and antiviolence groups. In 1985, for example, the superintendent of schools in a Florida community banned The Red Badge of Courage for profanity because it used the word “hell.”

Bibliography:

Bloom, Harold, ed. Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Examines style, technique, narrative method, and psychological aspects of Crane’s novel. Places the novel in the epic tradition.

Cazemajou, Jean. “The Red Badge of Courage: The ‘Religion of Peace’ and the War Archetype.” In Stephen Crane in Transition: Centenary Essays, edited by Joseph Katz. Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1972. Finds a balance in the novel between a metaphoric view of war as chaos and confusion, and a view of a world at peace. War and peace function more as archetypes than as realities in the novel.

LaFrance, Marston. A Reading of Stephen Crane. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1971. Identifies Crane’s genius not in creating literary naturalism, but rather in his psychological portrayal of Henry Fleming. Praises Crane’s use of third-person limited point of view.

Mitchell, Lee Clark, ed. New Essays on ‘The Red Badge of Courage.’ New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Traces the novel’s evolution; concludes that the original draft served as an outline to be expanded into the 1895 version. Identifies Crane’s abstraction of the Civil War from its historical context as a distinctive contribution to American literature.

Solomon, Eric. Stephen Crane: From Parody to Realism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966. Credits Crane with countering a tradition of dashing heroes in war fiction by using parody and with giving the war novel a new form that afterward became the model. Maintains that Crane selects his war stories for their value as fiction, creating rather than reliving war experiences.

Places Discussed

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Camp

Camp. Encampment of Henry’s regiment where the novel opens. Although the regiment has only been lodged there for a few months, the novel’s initial location seems to Henry to be “sort of eternal camp.” In the opening paragraph, as a fog clears to display the awakening army, roads “grow” in the distance from “long troughs of liquid mud.” The shore of a nearby river is occupied by the enemy, whose campfires glow by night on the ridges of low hills. Sometimes pickets posted as sentries on opposite banks shoot at one another; however, at other times they converse peaceably, their enmity set aside.

The regiment’s lodgings are log-walled huts roofed with folded tents. Cracker boxes serve as furniture, grouped around fireplaces whose chimneys—crudely compounded out of clay and sticks—are inefficient, with the...

(This entire section contains 699 words.)

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effect that the atmosphere inside each hut is foul with smoke: an omen of the battlefield to come.

Henry’s home

Henry’s home. Henry remembers life on his widowed mother’s dairy farm as an endless round of trudging between the house, the barn, and the fields. He recalls that after enlisting he went to say good-bye to his admiring schoolmates, and that as he walked away from the seminary, along a path between two rows of oaks, a girl watched him from a window; his subsequent journey by railroad to Washington, D.C., seemed to be a hero’s triumph because of the manner in which the troops were greeted at every station. Immediately before the battle, Henry remembers his local village on the day of a circus parade: an exquisitely detailed image that serves as a counterpoint to his chaotic awareness of the battlefield.

Battlefield

Battlefield. Images of the battlefield are compounded from a patchwork series of briefly glimpsed microcosms, each one narrowly confined by the undulations of the ground and the sprawling pine forests that girdle every little cluster of fields. When Henry first sees skirmishers running back and forth across clear ground, continually ducking into and out of trees, while a dark battle line extends across a sunstruck clearing, it seems to him to be entirely the wrong place to fight a battle. The forest appears to him at times to be an ambush-laden trap and at other times a protective haven. Eventually, however, it becomes a mere blur as his regiment is marched through it, emerging periodically into open land chaotically and cacophonously hazed by gunfire and smoke before moving back again.

When Henry hears that his companions have held the position from which he has run away, the forest creepers begin to catch his legs, as if protesting against his movement; he nearly wanders into a swamp before finding a corpse in a quiet “chapel” of pines. The forest remains resistant, brambles impeding his journey back to the battlefield as the creepers had earlier hindered his retreat, until he joins the procession of wounded men. Reunited with his battered regiment, Henry finds the scene initially reminiscent of the aftermath of an orgy, then of a slaughterhouse.

The landscape becomes increasingly hallucinatory thereafter, and it is while searching for an illusory stream that the youth overhears a general giving the order to send the regiment into a suicidal charge. From then on the almost-monochrome landscape is dominated by two flags: the one that the youth takes over from his own color sergeant and the one flying over the position where the retreating enemy leaves behind a pocket of desperate resistance. Between these two encounters the youth looks back in astonishment at the triviality of distances he has covered; it is because his companions are accused of “not going far enough” that they charge with sufficient resolution to capture the enemy flag.

On leaving the battlefield, the youth and the remnant of his regiment pass a “stolid white house”: a symbolic reminder of everything for which they are supposed to be fighting. Although the marching men return to troughs of mud identical to those from which they emerged, they now seem to the youth to be heading toward “prospects of clover”: a vision of the meadowy paradise awaiting them on the far side of the river.

Historical Context

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Memoirs of the Civil War

The war literature of the Civil War era glorified heroism and the courage of soldiers on both sides of the war. The numerous memoirs of war veterans influenced Crane, who had a lifelong obsession with war. He drew upon the common pattern of these chronicles for the major plot elements in The Red Badge of Courage: the sentimental expectation of the young recruit moved to enlist by patriotic rhetoric and heroic fantasies of war; the resistance of his parents to his enlistment; his anxiety over the apparent confusion and purposelessness of troop movements; his doubts about his personal courage; the dissipation of his heroic illusions in the first battle; his grumbling about the incompetency of generals; and other such motifs, incidents, and situations.

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Battle of Chancellorsville

The editors of Century Magazine published Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, one of Crane's primary sources in writing The Red Badge of Courage. The editors hoped to foster mutual respect for both armies, focusing on the bonds forged by soldiers in the field rather than the horrors they endured. Crane's novel challenged these popular tales, which often featured heroes on the battlefield rewarded by the love of an awed heroine at home. In the book, Henry Fleming has similar romantic notions of warfare but they are dispelled when he encounters the grim reality of the battlefield. Crane felt that fiction should present a slice out of life. Many readers had a difficult time believing he had not yet experienced war firsthand, because he was so successful at depicting the war.

The battle he describes in The Red Badge of Courage is based on the Battle of Chancellorsville. Besides referring to the Rappahannock River and the city of Richmond, the author discusses the fact that Fleming's regiment passes Washington, D.C., before quartering on the Rappahannock. The setting, geographical terrain, and the references to the weather parallel historical facts. Essentially, the battle was fought in the wilderness a few miles west of Fredencksburg, Virginia. Although this provides the scenario for the book, precise identification of the battle location is clearly not a primary consideration for Crane.

The Progress of Civilization and Urban Poor

As the nineteenth century drew to a close, it was assumed that humankind was steadily progressing. Advancements in technology, rapid industrialization, and improved education made some people feel that humans—and in particular Americans—had evolved beyond the destruction and ignorance that had taken place in the past. Yet wars continued to be fought and, with the improvement of weapons technology, became bloodier and more deadly. Crane points out in his novel that though education and religion were supposed to have "civilized" men and "checked" their passions, war continued to rage, and violence had only increased. His words proved visionary when the United States engaged in an international conflict, the Spanish-American War, in 1898 (Crane covered the conflict as a war correspondent). Crane studied New York City street life, since he spent much of his early adult life living among its poor and "fringe element." He frequently kept company with prostitutes and street people, even disguising himself as a transient in order to leam how they lived and were treated by society. He was one of the first "literary bohemians," so-called because he cavorted with disreputable characters and chose unusual subjects for his fiction (many did not consider the lower classes to be a fitting topic for literary endeavors). Crane was able to use his city experiences in the novel by drawing on the grim parallels between poverty-stricken urban streets and bloody war zones. In the novel, he refers to the approaching army as a train and the soldiers as the spokes of the wheels.

The Spanish-American War

Crane was enraptured by war stories and often entered battle as a war correspondent. On February 15, 1898, the Maine, an American ship in Cuba, was blown up in Havana harbor, and by April, the United States was at war with Spain. Crane was working on a writing project at this time but decided to volunteer for service. He had already experienced the fear of war when he boarded a boat loaded with ammunition and arms for Cuba and escaped Spanish gunboats. Crane's ship, the Commodore, eventually sank off the Florida coast, but he was able to escape into a ten-foot dinghy. He fictionalized this event in his short story "The Open Boat."

There were several causes of the war. American investments in Cuba were being threatened by continual Cuban revolts against Spanish rule. The Ostend Manifesto, a declaration issued by the United States, stated that if Spain refused to cede Cuba to the United States, it would be justified in taking the island by force. Also, the United States had been channeling money and munitions to aid Cuba, an act that created ill-feeling between the Spanish and American governments. The growth of anti-Spanish sentiment was fueled by "yellow journalism" tactics used during a newspaper war between Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and William Randolph Hearst of the New York Journal, which saw the publication of many stories and pictures of the ill-fated Cuban insurrection of 1895. These stories were designed to secure newspaper readers, but they were often exaggerated accounts.

The most tangible causes of the war were the destruction of the Maine, at a cost of 260 officers and crew, and the New York Journal's famous masthead declaring, "Remember the Maine!", which roused the nation to action. Finally, President McKinley had to ask for a declaration of war against Spain. The war was easily won by the United States, and the Treaty of Paris in 1898 gave Cuba its independence. The United States became its protector, and the country also took possession of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine Islands. Further, the United States became a naval power and a leader in world affairs.

Literary Style

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Point of View

The book is told in third-person from a young recruit's point of view and is a series of sensory impressions and dialogues between the soldiers. Henry Fleming, the main character, is anxious to understand what the other soldiers are feeling: Will they run during fire? Are they as scared as he? He misses his routine of milking the brindle cows at his family's farm. His comrades, Wilson, a vociferous solider who brags about "licking" the enemy, and Jim Conklin, who warns that there will be a big battle, serve to accentuate the young man's innocence. He is impatient to see action in battle, without really knowing what it is all about. When Henry asks the loud soldier if he will run from battle if he is scared, he answers, laughing at the boy, "I'll do my share of the fightin'." The actual skirmish kills half the regiment and gives Henry a head wound, ironically, by a fellow Union soldier. He is ashamed, however, that he ran from the ferocious gunfire and fears shame when returning to the troops. When his comrades believe his pretense that his wound was inflicted in battle, he becomes a renewed person and heroically seizes the Union flag from a dead soldier and advances to his personal victory.

Symbolism

Critics acknowledge Crane as an exceptional artist, with superb skills in imagery, metaphor, similes, and irony. He has even been referred to as a Symbolist in the tradition of the French poet Mallarme and the American author Edgar Allen Poe. The red badge—a soldier's wound—is the most obvious symbol in the book and the source of its greatest irony. While it is meant to be a sign of honor and courage, gamed from true action in war, Henry's red badge was given to him by accident by one of his own army and clearly not from brave battle. Henry lies about this and creates a pretense to his men that is accepted. Crane also used many nature symbols. For example, the images of flowers in bloom represent the transient, temporary nature of life. A metaphor (a figure of speech in which an object represents something else quite distinct from it) often cited by critics is the wafer-sun. Henry sees this upon his awareness of the reality of death, and it represents the communion wafer in an ecclesiastical service. It also suggests a flat, artificial "sun," glued onto a flat, imitation sky, thus diminishing Nature, eliminating Heaven, and enlarging the youth as the only observer.

Animal Imagery

Crane's novel abounds in animal imagery. The campfires of the enemy are red eyes shining in the dark, like those of predatory animals. When the battle begins, Henry fights like a "pestered animal ... worried by dogs," and on the third day he plunges like "a mad horse" at the Confederate flag. Crane writes that the soldiers fight like "wild cats." Further, the regiments resemble black, serpent-like columns of regiments entering the cover of night (this imagery is known as a simile, i.e, the writer's representation of unlike objects through use of "like" or "as" comparisons). The use of animal imagery helps convey the deterministic point of view of the literary naturalist, that men are caught like animals in a world they cannot control. In the chapters where Henry runs away in fear, he does so like a creature seeking his own self-preservation. He throws a pine cone at a squirrel, which runs frightened up a tree. The squirrel "did not stand stolidly baring his furry belly to the missile.... On the contrary, he had fled as fast as his legs could carry him...." Henry feels freed since "Nature had given him a sign."

Irony

Much has been written about the novel's irony, a literary technique that demonstrates a discrepancy between the appearance and reality of a situation. Crane presents different perspectives of a situation so that the reader must put together what is really true. The book's title is the supreme irony since Henry receives his wound from a crazed soldier who hits the boy on the head with a rifle butt after Henry has fled from a skirmish. The battle is also ironic, for after Henry's great display of bravery on the third day of battle, the army retreats and all the ground won at great cost is given up. Crane makes the sacrifices of war seem futile and the suffering not worth the cost. The moral, however, is implicit, for at the end of the novel, Henry feels a sense of pride as a full-fledged man. Some critics dispute the fact that there is a moral sense at all in this book. In any case, there is a sense that Henry has undergone some transformation.

Setting

The scenario of the battle is Chancellorsville, Virginia, near Richmond, and the time is probably 1863. The Battle of Chancellorsville that pitted 130,000 Union soldiers under General Joseph Hooker against 60,000 Confederates under General Robert E. Lee eventually resulted in a large defeat for the Union troops. Hooker crossed the Rappahannock River and advanced to attack the Rebels from behind Chancellorsville. Lee and Jackson split their troops and surprised Hooker. Union casualties in the Battle included 1,606 killed and 9,762 wounded, with nearly 6,000 missing Union generals were fired by Lincoln for not having a cohesive battle plan. In the novel, Henry Fleming runs into the woods for refuge from the fire. The woods becomes an ironic setting, since it offers neither salvation nor peace, but another look at death in the form of a partially decomposed corpse.

Literary Techniques

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In preparation for writing The Red Badge of Courage, Crane studied the Civil War photographs of Matthew Brady and illustrations by painter Winslow Homer and drew on his own highly empathic imagination. The writers Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford, Crane's good friends in England, claimed that Crane subscribed to the impressionistic literary movement and strictly observed the canon of impressionism: "render; never report." By means of his sharply etched and poetic images, Crane hoped to help his readers feel as if they were actually on a battlefield. For example, Crane describes the wounded enemy standard-bearer behaving as if he had "invisible ghouls fastened greedily upon his limbs" as he tries to escape with his flag; Crane also renders a vivid image of the dirt and smoke assaulting the regiment: "Wallowing in the fight, they were in an astonishingly short time besmudged . . . Moving to and fro with strained exertion, jabbering the while they were, with The Red Badge of Courage their swaying bodies, black faces, and glowing eyes, like strange and ugly fiends jigging heavily in the smoke."

Ending The Red Badge of Courage was difficult for Crane, The professional writers among his friends marveled at how rapidly he produced his work, whether prose or poetry, and how rarely he revised what he had written. But three attempts to bring his second novel to a close were required, and even then he probably was not satisfied. Although he wrote the first draft of The Red Badge of Courage in nine days, he told Willa Cather that "he had been unconsciously working the detail of the story through most of his boyhood."

"It was essential that I should make my battle a type and name no names," Crane said when explaining the overall plan of his book. As several critics have noted, this choice makes The Red Badge of Courage resemble an allegory. What makes it different from typical allegories such as John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1678) or William Langland's Piers Plowman (c. 1395) is Crane's attitude toward conventional Christianity. Raised in a family of ministers and religious workers, he himself became an agnostic. Some of the imagery of the novel is drawn from religion, such as "the chapel," where Henry hopes to escape from the battle. But throughout the novel, everybody curses, nobody prays, and Crane uses imagery from his religious training to show that, for him, war is demonic; demons and devils abound in his poetic metaphors. Critic R. W. Stallman sees the death of Jim Conklin as a crucifixion and notes that the soldier's initials are the same as those of Jesus Christ. Critic Bettina L. Knapp sees the battle as an initiation similar to the one religious devotees experience before they receive illumination, the knowledge that God is with them and that they are one with him. The novel may well invite such interpretations because of its stark simplicity.

The best-drawn characters in Crane's books are usually those from low socioeconomic backgrounds — inner-city residents, soldiers, coal miners, seamen, and farmers. Crane did not romanticize his characters because he recognized that poverty-stricken people are quite capable of making their have-not status a basis for conceit. Crane found this attitude quite prevalent in the Bowery, and he made it as much the target of his ironic barbs as he did the conceit of the rich.

Compare and Contrast

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1860s: The Southern cotton states, in a pro-secession move to protect their slave-based economy, formed The Confederate States of America. When the Civil War ended, the Industrial Revolution began in the U.S., and "King Cotton" was replaced by the growth of manufacturing in the South.

1890s: With increased industrialization, labor strikes, such as the 1892 Homestead Steel strike and the 1894 Pullman railroad strike, erupted; a financial depression takes place between 1892 and 1894.

Today: Labor strikes continue in transportation, civil service, and other sectors; financial insecurities exist among employees in downsizing corporations. The federal government must reduce a multi-billion dollar deficit, yet the stock market continues its strong performance.

1860s: The American Civil War pits brother against brother, Southerner against Northerner. About 90,000 Confederate and 93,000 Union soldiers died, more men, in proportion to population, than the British and French lost in World War I.

1890s: The sinking of the Maine ignites the Spanish-American War of 1898, which is won by the United States.

Today: The U.S. is experiencing a period of peace and relative prosperity. The Cold War with the Soviet Union has ended, and the U.S. is not at war with any country.

1860s: Cannons, rifles and revolvers, and swords and bayonets are an army's primary weapons during the Civil War.

1890s: Naval power becomes increasingly important in warfare. Battleships and armored cruisers help the United States win the Spanish-American War.

Today: Computers, satellites, stealth technology, and laser-guided weapons have changed the face of war. Several countries have nuclear capabilities.

Literary Precedents

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The battle of Chancellorsville in northern Virginia, waged from May 1 to May 3, 1863, seems to have been Crane's model for the fictional battle in The Red Badge of Courage. The action of the novel follows that of the original conflict — a Confederate victory — quite closely. Chancellorsville is not mentioned in the novel, nor is General Joseph "Fighting Joe" Hooker, the leader of the Army of the Potomac at Chancellorsville. At one point in the novel, though, Crane does name the Rappahannock River, which separates the two armies. The real setting of The Red Badge of Courage, however, is the consciousness of Henry Fleming. The battle, his fellow Union soldiers, and the landscape are all seen through his eyes. His attitudes, which change frequently, determine what he and the reader see.

Adaptations

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The Red Badge of Courage was made into a motion picture in 1951 by John Huston, who both directed the film and wrote the screenplay. It starred Audie Murphy, the most decorated American hero in World War II, as Henry Fleming, and also featured Bill Mauldin, Royal Dano, and John Dierkes. In 1974, Lee Philips directed an adequate television movie version of the novel starring Richard Thomas as Henry.

Media Adaptations

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The Red Badge of Courage was adapted as a film by John Huston, starring Audie Murphy, Bill Mauldin, and Andy Devine, Universal, 1951; available from MCA/Universal Home Video.

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Film Adaptation

The Red Badge of Courage also appears on an educational video, with a number of different interpretations of Crane's masterpiece; produced by Thomas S. Klise Company.

There is an abridged recording of the book, narrated by actor Richard Crenna, and published by Listen for Pleasure, Downsview, Ontario, 1985. Two audio cassettes, 120 minutes, and Dolby processed.

The sound recording of the complete, unabridged version of The Red Badge of Courage, narrated by Frank Muller, is available from Recorded Books, Charlotte Hall, MD, 1981. Three audio cassettes, 270 minutes.

A sound recording with a lecture by Warren French on The Red Badge of Courage, published by Everett/Edwards, Deland, FL, 1972. One audio cassette, 38 minutes.

Bibliography and Further Reading

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Sources

Joseph Hergesheimer, "Introduction" 'The Red Badge of Courage', 1895-1924," in The Work of Stephen Crane, Vol. I, edited by Wilson Follett, 1925. Reprint by Russell & Russell, 1963, pp ix-xvm.

Donald Pizer, "Nineteenth-Century American Naturalism: An Essay in Definition," Bucknell University Review, Fall, 1965.

Robert Shulman, "Community, Perception, and the Development of Stephen Crane From 'The Red Badge' to 'The Open Boat'," in American Literature, Vol. 50, No. 3, November, 1978, pp. 441-60.

R.W. Stallman, "Introduction" in The Red Badge of Courage: An Episode of the American Civil War, by Stephen Crane, The Modern Library, 1951, pp. v-xxxvii.

R.W. Stallman, Stephen Crane, an Omnibus, New York: 1952.

Charles Child Walcutt, "Stephen Crane: Naturalist and Impressionist," in his American Literary Naturalism: A Divided Stream, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1956, pp. 66-86.

Edmund Wilson, Patriotic Gore: Studies in the literature of the American Civil War, 1962 New York: Norton, 1994.

George Wyndham, "A Remarkable Book," in New Review, Vol. XIV, No. 80, January, 1896, pp. 30-40.

Further Reading

Maurice Bassan, editor, Stephen Crane: A Collection of Critical Essays, Prentice-Hall, 1967.
This collection is notable for its reprint of essays by other famous authors of Crane's period who report on his personality ("When I Knew Stephen Crane" by Willa Cather) and the sensational effect of the publication of The Red Badge of Courage ("His War Book" by Joseph Conrad). This collection also contains the famous essay "Crane's Art" by poet John Berryman and many other useful discussions of Crane's place in American and world literature.

Thomas Beer, Stephen Crane: A Study in American Letters, Knopf, 1923.
Beer's work was the first biography about Crane. Though later scholars have found some factual errors in the book, it is still considered an important work.

Frank Bergon, in his Stephen Crane's Artistry, Columbia University Press, 1975.
Bergon analyzes the aspects of Crane's use of dreams and dream images in his literature. He offers a complete characterization of Crane's style.

John Berryman, in his Stephen Crane: A Critical Biography, Sloane, 1950.
A biography of Crane notable for being written by one of the important poets of the post World War II era, whose insights into Crane and his work have not yet been superseded by more scholarly biographies

John Berryman, Stephen Crane: A Critical Biography, Farrar, Straus, 1982.
This biography examines symbolism in Crane's work, with an interesting chapter on his Freudian themes.

Harold Bloom, editor, Modern Critical Interpretations: The Red Badge of Courage, Chelsea House, 1987.
A collection of critical essays containing discussions of psychology, literary impressionism, and the heroic ideal in The Red Badge of Courage. Sophisticated but important theory for a more contemporary, postmodern understanding of Crane's novel.

Edwin H. Cady, in his Stephen Crane, revised edition, Twayne, 1980.
This is a balanced critical biography.

Richard Chase, The Red Badge of Courage and Other Writings, Houghton, 1960.
A critical view of Crane's contribution as a naturalist writer. Chase contests Stallman's view that Crane is a symbolist.

James B. Colvert, "Stephen Crane," in Concise Dictionary of American Literary Biography: Realism, Naturalism, and Local Color, 1865-1917 Gale, 1988, pp. 88-109.
Colvert presents an in-depth survey of Crane's major works, and adds perspective to the author's similarity to Rudyard Kipling.

Lois Hill, Poems and Songs of the Civil War, Gramercy Books, 1990.
A very useful collection of the popular songs and poems that common soldiers like Henry Fleming would have sung and cherished. Songs such as "Lorena," "The Vacant Chair," and "The Bonnie Blue Flag" and poems such as Whitman's "Bivoac on a Mountainside" and Melville's "Running the Batteries" give the real flavor of the war—often sentimental—that Crane was trying to capture.

James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, Ballentine Books, 1988.
This is the only one-volume treatment of the entire Civil War, and by all accounts, one of the best. It contains a detailed discussion of the Battle of Chancellorsville, which is the setting of The Red Badge of Courage.

David Madden and Peggy Bach, Classics of Civil War Fiction, University Press of Mississippi, 1991.
James Cox's essay on The Red Badge of Courage places it in the context of other Civil War novels such as Mary Johnston's The Long Roll, Ellen Glasgow's The Battle-Ground, and John Peale Bishop's Many Thousands Gone.

Richard M. Weatherford, editor, Stephen Crane: The Critical Heritage, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973.
Contains thirty-two reviews of The Red Badge of Courage from 1894 through 1898, showing the critical reception of Crane's work in America and England. While some critics were slow to recognize Crane's genius, others were able to see it instantly, and to relate it to the Impressionism movement that was dominating the art world at that time.

Bibliography

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Bloom, Harold, ed. Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage.” New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Examines style, technique, narrative method, and psychological aspects of Crane’s novel. Places the novel in the epic tradition.

Cazemajou, Jean. “The Red Badge of Courage: The ‘Religion of Peace’ and the War Archetype.” In Stephen Crane in Transition: Centenary Essays, edited by Joseph Katz. Dekalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1972. Finds a balance in the novel between a metaphoric view of war as chaos and confusion, and a view of a world at peace. War and peace function more as archetypes than as realities in the novel.

LaFrance, Marston. A Reading of Stephen Crane. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1971. Identifies Crane’s genius not in creating literary naturalism, but rather in his psychological portrayal of Henry Fleming. Praises Crane’s use of third-person limited point of view.

Mitchell, Lee Clark, ed. New Essays on ‘The Red Badge of Courage.’ New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Traces the novel’s evolution; concludes that the original draft served as an outline to be expanded into the 1895 version. Identifies Crane’s abstraction of the Civil War from its historical context as a distinctive contribution to American literature.

Solomon, Eric. Stephen Crane: From Parody to Realism. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1966. Credits Crane with countering a tradition of dashing heroes in war fiction by using parody and with giving the war novel a new form that afterward became the model. Maintains that Crane selects his war stories for their value as fiction, creating rather than reliving war experiences.

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