Category Archives: The Red Badge of Courage

You Can Count on It

Now that we’ve read twenty-four of the most important works of fiction in chronological order something keeps happening, and a while back Christine suggested the need for a series to document this phenomenon.

Connecting the Literary Dots

That’s right, it seems that at every page turn we run into some association with the fictional past, and it’s time to connect those points and see if any patterns appear.  Beware though, some posts could end up looking like the dot-to-dots my three-year-olds “complete.”

For our first official installment (if you’re really hungry for unofficial ones, you can find a good batch here) I bring you this quote only a page or two away from the end of Book One.  Winston just saw the dark haired girl on the street in prole territory and regrets his inability to conk her on the head with a brick then and there.

It struck him that in moments of crisis one is never fighting against an external enemy but always against one’s own body.  Even now, in spite of the gin, the dull ache in his belly made consecutive thought impossible.  And it is the same, he perceived, in all seemingly heroic or tragic situations.  On the battlefield, in the torture chamber, on a sinking ship, the issues that you are fighting for are always forgotten, because the body swells up until it fills the universe, and even when you are not paralyzed by fright or screaming with pain, life is a moment-to-moment struggle against hunger or cold or sleeplessness, against a sour stomach or an aching tooth.

Red Badge of Courage, anyone?

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Posted by on November 20, 2013 in 1984, The Red Badge of Courage


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The Fastest 300 Years EVER!

Sancho and the donkey.  Christian.  Yahoos and Houyhnhnms.  Elizabeth and Darcy.  Oliver.   Bertha-in-the-attic.  Hester and Pearl.   Moby Dick.   Uncles and Madams.  Rascal.   Anna-Kitty-Levin-Vronsky-oviches.   The Heath.   Isabel.   Huckleberry.   The Journeys of Henry and Marlowe.   And now Lily, whose outcome, at least for me, is still uncertain.

While paging through the Well-Educated Mind list of fiction books, I realized that Don Quixote was published in 1605 and House of Mirth in 1905.   300 years!  I congratulate myself and you, fellow readers, on plowing through 300 years of literature.   May the crop be plentiful!  I suggest a glass of red wine and some good chocolate to celebrate.



Called Back to Duty

The VeteranSo you thought you were done with that teensy little The Red Badge of Courage, did you?  Guess what?  There’s more.  Check the back of your book.  See that little thing called The Veteran?  It’s sort of an epilogue, and it clarifies the lens on which we should look upon Henry’s service.

Christine pointed out its presence in the comments of this post, but I wanted to make sure you all got the memo on this little tucked away secret.  It’s so well hidden my husband taught this book to his 7th and 8th graders for years and had never noticed or read it.

My book says The Veteran was written two years after RBoC and is “often read as a coda” to Crane’s most well-known work.

Go ahead, read it, it’s only four pages or so.  I’ll wait right here for you to finish.


Well, what did you think?  Did you like knowing what happened in Fleming’s military career?  How do you feel about his honesty?  What about Jim?  And the ending?  And the color?  And the bravery?


Posted by on April 4, 2013 in The Red Badge of Courage


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Brand Names

I love to find connections to other literature in our classics.  But this one from the beginning of Chapter 9 surprised me.

Because of the tattered soldier’s question he now felt that his shame could be viewed.  He was continually casting sidelong glances to see if the men were contemplating the letters of quilt he felt burned into his brow.

Did you see them there?  Arthur and Hester?  What do you think Henry’s letters were?  D for deserter?  R for run?  Or perhaps like the original duo, an A, but this time for abandoner?

Based on Crane’s use of color, I’m guessing it was definitely scarlet.


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The Red Badge of Comics

RBOC from Foxtrot


Posted by on April 2, 2013 in The Red Badge of Courage


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Great Illustrated Badge

GIC RBoCYesterday I asked my crew if anyone wanted to read the Great Illustrated Classics version of The Red Badge of Courage.  Not to be outdone by child number one who recently wrote a post, child number two quickly piped up with, “I will!”

Me:Can you tell me what the book is about?
#2: The Red Badge of Courage is a book about Henry Fleming.  He was a young farmer who went off to war.  He didn’t have to, but he wanted to.

Me: Why don’t you tell me three parts of the story that you enjoyed.
#2: I liked when Henry Fleming and Tom wrestle over holding the flag, and Henry becomes the flag bearer.  (One difference between the Great Illustrated Classic and the original text is that the GIC has Wilson getting the confederate flag from the dead flag bearer and not Wilson and Fleming together taking it.)  I liked when the mule-drivers had their revenge by winning their battle.  One part that was sad was when Henry Fleming’s friend Jim died.

Me: Did you think this book was too bloody or gruesome for kids your age?
#2: For some kids maybe, but not for me.

Me: To whom would you recommend this book?
#2: People who read books about wars.

PS– I, Christine, did not read the Great Illustrated Classics version of this novel.  I did take a peek at the very end to see if the epilogue titled “The Veteran” was included.  It was not.  But there was a map on the very last page titled “The Battle of Chancellorsville. Virginia: May, 1863”.
So that’s where we were!


Posted by on April 1, 2013 in The Red Badge of Courage


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By His Wounds

Henry Fleming’s wound was superficial.  Superficial, and inflicted by one who should have been his friend.  Superficial, friendly “fire,” and a painful reminder of his own treachery.

It was certainly no red badge of courage.

Our wounds, too, are usually not nearly as threatening as they might seem – a head cold, a busy schedule, a crying child.  Often they are self-inflicted – exhaustion from staying up too late, embarrassment of a job half-done.  And almost always they remind us of our own failures – a guilty conscience over words ill-spoken, an ache in the gut from unkindnesses paid to others, veiled eyes that have looked upon evil instead of Christ.

We are all Henry Fleming.

Processional Crucifix of Our Savior Lutheran ChurchGrand Rapids, MichiganEdward Riojas, artist

Processional Crucifix of Our Savior Lutheran Church
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Edward Riojas, artist

Yet Jesus’ deep wounds supersede ours.  They were wounds inflicted by our guilt, not his own.  And at the cross it was Christ who was the deserted, not the deserter

His red badge is of love.

So let the enemy know, the battle is over.  We Henries need not fear his bullets.  Death is defeated.

Or as the 6th century hymn-writer said:

Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle
Sing the ending of the fray.
Now above the cross, the trophy
Sound the loud triumphant lay;
Tell how Christ, the world’s redeemer,
As a victim won the day.

Blessed Triduum to you all.

Blog posts will resume Monday, April 1.  No joke.

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Stephen Crane or King?

I strongly discourage you from reading Chapter 7 immediately before turning out the lights at night.  I may or may not speak from experience.

He was being looked at by a dead man who was seated with his back against a columnlike tree. . . The eyes, staring at the youth, had changed to the dull hue to be seen on the side of a dead fish.  The mouth was open.  Its red had changed to an appalling yellow.  Over the gray skin of the face ran little ants.  One was trundling some sort of a bundle along the upper lip.

The youth gave a shriek as he confronted the thing.  He was for moments turned to stone before it .  He remained staring into the liquid-looking eyes.  The dead man and the living man exchanged a long look  Then the youth cautiously put one hand behind him and brought it against a tree.  Leaning upon this he retreated, step by step, with his face still toward the thing. He feared if he turned his back the body might spring up and steathily pursue him.

Goodnight.  Sleep tight.  Don’t let the ants, er, I mean bedbugs bite.


Posted by on March 27, 2013 in The Red Badge of Courage


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Stupid Question: Spartan Edition

Stupid QuestionsNope, we’re not talking about Michigan State basketball today, although my facebook feed tells me that’s apparently a hot topic.  Instead we’re going to tackle a stupid question for which I already found the answer.  Here’s my original query:

What did Crane mean when he wrote about Henry’s reaction to his mother’s farewell, “Still, she had disappointed him by saying nothing whatever about returning with his shield or on it?”

My original confusion was brought on because although my knowledge of civil war history is bleak, I was pretty sure carrying shields wasn’t in vogue at the time. The general, “alive or honorably dead” concept made sense, but why would she mention a piece of equipment unlikely to be in Henry’s possession?

Here’s where reading the earlier materials on the WEM list might have been helpful.  Apparently, this is a reference to a Latin phrase “e tan, e epi tan,” a phrase first recorded in Pultarch’s Moralia.  According to legend Spartan mothers would utter this as they handed their sons their shields.  With this, or on this.  Heartwarming.

Nicely done, Stephen Crane.  Not only can you write your own clever sentences, but you’ve learned to borrow the best ones from history.  I’m taking notes.

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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in The Red Badge of Courage


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In Case You Haven’t Been There…

…Stephen Crane will make sure you can picture the battle scenes.   He seems to be master of the analogy.   Here are just a few of his similes and metaphors for war – all direct quotes:

1.  The red animal – war, the blood-swollen god, that would have it’s bloated fill.

2. Composite monster.

3. Wild, barbaric song.

4. A god with soldiers as “slaves toiling at his temple.”

5.  Redoubtable dragon, red and green.

6.  Like the grinding of an immense and terrible machine.  (That produces corpses)

7. Furnace roaring.

8.  Like two animals tossed for a death-struggle into a dark pit.

9.  A porcupine with quills of flame.

10. A pair of boxers, dodging and feinting.

11.  Two long waves swelling and pitching on each other.

How can he do this so effectively when my research tells me that he never was actually in a war?
I wonder.   Care to add any analogies you’ve found in the book?   I bet we can generate quite a list together.