Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

The rushing yellow of the developing day went on behind their backs. When the sunrays at last struck full and mellowingly upon the earth, the youth saw that the landscape was streaked with two long, thin, black columns which disappeared on the brow of a hill in front and rearward vanished in a wood. They were like two serpents crawling from the cavern of the night.

The Red Badge of Courage is the tale of one young soldier's feelings during the (American) Civil War, as he wrestled with his fear and dealt with the reality of battle.

Sarah of Book Buff in Oz gave me the best capsule description of The Red Badge of Courage: "A simple yet compellingly human portrait of a young man at war." Absolutely perfect; thanks, Sarah. I mentioned in my earlier, whiny post, that I enjoyed reading the book immensely - even though there was a heavy use of vernacular and I read it on-screen. In fact, the book was so compelling that I eventually sank into the futon with my laptop and a pile of pillows to finish it off and then looked up cover art, reviews, and information about the book.

What I discovered was fascinating. Several reviewers mentioned that Stephen Crane didn't experience the Civil War first-hand and they found it surprising that he described a young soldier's experience so vividly. At a site specifically dedicated to The Red Badge of Courage (which, unfortunately, I failed to bookmark), the reason for his colorful portrayal became plain. When Crane read several newspaper accounts of Civil War action, he was sorely disappointed to find that the soldiers described their personal experiences without emotion, focusing on events and places without sharing how they felt. However, he read a large number of letters written by soldiers and from those he was able to glean the true depth of emotion felt by a soldier in battle or even the tiresome experience of merely waiting, waiting, waiting.

I'll keep this one short, but I thought it was an excellent read and I'm only knocking off one point for the annoyance of phonetically-written dialogue. I just hate that. I'm on the side of author Muriel Spark, who claims the choice of wording will make the accent apparent and therefore spelling things as they sound rather than using their correct spelling is unnecessary. Go Muriel.


And, go Peyton. He's our boy. Well, sort of - I'm not a native, but I've lived in Mississippi long enough to pretend we claim him.

Coming up: A review of The African Queen. 4 classics down, 1 to go.

Superbowl thought: While watching the Colts coach put on his Superbowl cap, followed by the advertisement for Superbowl merchandise, I asked the spouse if they had a whole second set of hats ready in case the other team won. "Sure," he said. "Somewhere, there are a whole bunch of unopened boxes of T-shirts."

I just hope they don't end up in a landfill. Recycle, Superbowl people!

Happy Superbowl Sunday!


  1. The best part of Super Bowl Sunday, for me, was eating garlic parmesan wings from Wingstreet. And the What Not to Wear marathon on TLC. I didn't actually watch any of the game. :D

    Lovely review of The Red Badge of Courage. I've never had any desire to read it, but you actually compelled me!

  2. The Red Badge of Courage is one of those books that makes you think. It isn't exactly an enjoyable read, but a thought-provoking one. It pairs well with Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front.

    I've never read The African Queen, but am eager to hear your review. My images are all from the movie. :)

  3. Andi,

    We ate mini quiches, watched The African Queen, and then I came in for part of the Super Bowl and thanked God that I wasn't in Florida. They had pouring rain!

    Thanks. I'm pretty sure William read The Red Badge of Courage when he was about 10 and he enjoyed it but now he doesn't remember. If you can tolerate someone writing "hull" instead of "whole", it's okay. I do dislike that, myself, but the story is fascinating.


    I've yet to read All Quiet on the Western Front. That's another one on the TBRs. :) Yes, I'd agree. It's affecting but not fun reading.

    I hope to get a review of The African Queen up, later today. I always have a lot of chores on Monday because my husband makes huge messes and Monday's repair day.

  4. The Super Bowl was on last night?

  5. Les,

    I would have missed it entirely if not for the fact that Blogger ate my first version of a Red Badge review. After half of it disappeared (I'd saved the first bit - the photo, quote, and a paragraph), I wandered out to the living room and cuddled through the end of the football game with David - admittedly, I didn't notice much besides the rain, Peyton, and the hats. Then, I went back and rewrote a shorter review. :)

  6. Ah, I should have written that comment with a smirk ;). I was being facetious (sp?).

    Les, the baseball fan

  7. Les,

    I hate football. LOL Baseball is great fun because . . . this is so girly . . . you can actually see the nice, muscular shape of the men in their uniforms. I think all those football pads just ruin the view. Plus, I can keep a running patter during a baseball game - all those silly signals. My poor husband; I drive him nuts when I watch sporting events because I chatter and I can't take them seriously. I make him snicker and drop things.

  8. Very nice review, Bookfool. You're doing very well with the classics challenge - 4 down and 1 to go. That's great. I'm reading my 4th right now. It's also a chunkster - Gone With the Wind. It may take me all of Feb. to finish.

  9. Booklogged,

    I'm having such fun. I haven't been in Classics Mode in quite a while and I forgot how much I enjoy them. I think it's the language of older books that I love. I should finish my 5th in a couple of days, but I'll keep going. Great Expectations is a fat one and I'm reading that for all three challenges; it's fat, I've had it forever, and it's a classic. :)

    Thanks so much for coming up with this challenge!!

  10. I think Muriel Spark's got it exactly right, too.

  11. Bybee,

    Muriel's wise in many ways. I think I read that in her memoir, Curriculum Vitae.

  12. I recently bought this. Maybe I'll save it for the Classics Challenge. I remember a teacher reading it to us in 4th grade but that's all I remember. Sounds like I'll enjoy it.

  13. Framed,

    I thought it was a good one for the Classics Challenge. I've meant to read Red Badge for ages but just hadn't gotten around to doing so. Cool that it was read to you by a teacher. My elementary library teacher read to us and I think that she was one of those people who really nurtured my love of books. A childhood friend felt the same way. Years later, we both reread THE CAY, which she read to us one year.


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