Friday, October 22, 2010
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Henry Fleming, a young man who joined the army against his mother's wishes, wants to know the meaning of courage. He wants to be brave, to fight in the war and be honored for his love for his country. But then come the doubts, the rage, the fear. And Henry, the youth, must learn the hard way what it really means to wear the red badge of courage.
It's a short novel, and beautifully crafted and written and built, but it's not an easy read, per se. (I want to read it again soon because I had a to read it a little fast for my liking in order to get my homework done.) Most of the characters have names, but Crane tends to use their character handles in reference to them. Henry is most often referred to as "the youth." There is the "tall soldier," "the loud soldier," etc. This is a very original and - I found - fascinating way to identify the characters, but for a reader who is not used to reading like that, it is more difficult and takes more time. Crane also uses many metaphors to describe the battefields and what "the youth" is feeling. He also uses a lot of color. And while this makes for a beautiful story with beautiful illustrations, it is a bit harder to follow.
But don't let that stop you. By all means, read this book. What fasinated me most about it was the way I felt while reading it. I could picture everything perfectly. The battlescenes flowed from beginning to end, ever deathly and beautiful all in one. I almost felt like I was reading in slow motion. I could picture "the youth" scrambling in the field, avoiding every bullet and tumbling into the trees in fright. I was there, among the soldiers. I was fighting and killing and brandishing a weapon. I saw the battles in a three dimensional whirl-wind of color, with bullets singeing my face and debris cutting my skin.
I wore the red badge of courage.