Friday, September 05, 2008

The Red Badge of Courage (book review)

The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, is one of the most famous Civil War stories ever published. Unlike most novels about this subject written at the time, it focused on the life of a common foot soldier, not a famous general or hero.

The book begins when the main character, Henry, joins the army with one goal in mind: to become a hero. At first he enjoys this new life, but as the day of battle draws near Henry begins to form a doubt in his mind. Is he really capable of becoming a hero, or will he turn and run when he finally gets a chance to fight? When the day of battle comes, he is at first calmed by his spectacular performance in the fight, but when the enemy forms a furious counter-charge, Henry can't help himself--he runs.

After the battle is over and the young man is lost, he feels a deep sense of shame. He yearns to rejoin his regiment and prove himself worthy of the rank of hero. But first, Henry joins up with a group of wounded soldiers heading off to the hospital. Seeing all these brave men, he feels even more ashamed of himself. Why couldn't he have stayed and fought?

Eventually Henry finds his regiment, who, fortunately, didn't notice his shameful act. But there is another battle coming up. Will Henry finally set his mind at ease and earn his place among the other brave men?

I greatly enjoyed this superb Civil War novel. I really connected with Henry, who I got to know a lot while I read. When he proved himself in battle, I felt proud. By reading this book, you can really get a sense of what a grueling ordeal these poor men went through. But there were also the moments of joy, like winning a battle. I truly felt like one of these men when I read this book! I absolutely loved it!

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