Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane

“He had burned several times to enlist. Tales of great movements shook the land. They might not be distinctly Homeric, but there seemed to be much glory in them. He had read of marches, sieges, conflicts, and he had longed to see it all. His busy mind had drawn for him large pictures extravagant in color, lurid with breathless deeds.”

Henry Fleming is anxious. He wants to join the Union and fight in the American Civil War. He thinks it'll be a grand adventure and he'll come back a hero. Little does he know what the war has in store for him.

This is honestly one of the most poetic stories about war that I’ve ever read. Even more so than “Fahrenheit 451” which I raved about in an earlier post. The contrast between Crane’s beautifully expressive writing and the horrible scenes he describes is somewhat jarring because even though he’s showing war as destructive and terrifying, he also paints this lyrical picture. He really brought scenes to life with his use of diction. But I've included my favourite passage from the book below.

"Swift pictures of himself, apart, yet in himself, came to him--a blue desperate figure leading lurid charges with one knee forward and a broken blade high--a blue, determined figure standing before a crimson and steel assault getting calmly killed on a high place before the eyes of all."

Crane really communicates the brutality of war, the waiting punctuated by short spurts of violence. I liked how the reader can see how Henry's opinion about the war and his situation change over time, how his experiences come to define his character and attitude. My one complaint, as with "Fahrenheit 451" is that this book is too short by half.

If you want to read a great story that really communicates the thoughts and feelings of the average soldier in the American Civil War, then read this book.

Rating: 5/5

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