This unique version also includes the following bonus annotations:
- Biography of the author
- Historical context of the book
- Literary critique
The Red Badge of Courage is an 1895 war novel by American author Stephen Crane. It is considered one of the most influential works in American literature. The novel, a depiction on the cruelty of the American Civil War, features a young recruit who overcomes initial fears to become a hero on the battlefield. The book made Crane an international success. Although he was born after the war and had not at the time experienced battle firsthand, the novel is considered an example of American Naturalism.
By March 1893, Stephen Crane had already published his first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, at the age of 21. Maggie was not a success, either financially or critically. Most critics thought the unsentimental Bowery tale crude or vulgar, and Crane was forced to publish the work privately after it was repeatedly rejected for publication.
Crane quickly found inspiration for his next novel, however, while spending hours lounging in a friend's studio and having his portrait painted regularly. He became fascinated with issues of the magazine Century that were largely devoted to famous battles and military leaders from the Civil War.Frustrated with the dryly written stories, Crane stated, "I wonder that some of those fellows don't tell how they felt in those scraps. They spout enough of what they did, but they're as emotionless as rocks."Crane returned to these magazines during subsequent visits to the studio, and eventually the idea of writing a war novel overtook him. He would later state that he "had been unconsciously working the detail of the story out through most of his boyhood" and had imagined "war stories ever since he was out of knickerbockers."
The story is set during an unnamed battle of the American Civil War which bears numerous parallels to the historical Battle of Chancellorsville. 18-year-old Henry Fleming joins the Union Army despite discouragement from his mother (he has no father mentioned in the book, save that his mother says his father never drank alcohol), and becomes a private in the 304th Regiment. In the weeks and days leading up to the conflict, Henry muses about whether he'll be brave, or will turn and run. During his first battle, Confederate soldiers charge his regiment, but are repelled. A few minutes later, they regroup and attack again. This time, when Henry sees some other people running and has his own fears that the battle is a lost cause, he deserts his battalion. However, when he gets to the rear of the army, he overhears a general saying that the army won anyway, and realizes he ran for nothing, and ashamed, he spends the rest of the day away from his regiment.
Escaping into a nearby forest, he finds a dead man decaying, alone in a clearing of the woods, and so comes face to face with the horror of death. One member of the group, the "Tattered Soldier", asks Henry (who is often referred to as "The Youth") where he is wounded, but Henry dodges the question. He also meets one of his friends, Jim Conklin, who has been shot in the side and is suffering dementia from bloodloss. He dies, and Henry runs away from the wounded soldiers.
In the final battle, Henry acts as the flag carrier. A line of Confederates is hidden behind a fence beyond a clearing, and are able to shoot Henry's regiment with impunity, which is ill-covered in the tree-line. So, facing certain death if they stay, and disgrace if they retreat, the officers order a charge. Henry, unarmed, leads the charge, but doesn't take a single bullet injury. Most of the Confederates at the fence run before the regiment gets there, and of the surviving soldiers, four Confederates are taken prisoner. The overall battle ends, and Henry and his regiment march back to camp.