The Red Badge of Courage is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane (1871–1900). Stephen Crane was born after the war and had not at the time experienced battle first-hand. Despite his lack of experience, the novel is known for its realism. He began writing in 1893. It is believed that he based the fictional battle on that of Chancellorsville. Initially shortened and serialized in newspapers in December 1894, the novel was published in full in October 1895. A longer version of the work, based on Crane’s original manuscript, was published in 1982.
Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound, a “red badge of courage” to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer.
Stephen Crane died at age 28 of tuberculosis. He had been a war correspondent in Cuba where he also developed malaria. En route to Cuba he was shipwrecked and spent 30 hours surviving in an open boat. This incident was later described in a piece called “The Open Boat”. It is said that Crane influenced the writing of Ernest Hemingway and that he was considered by his peers as a brilliant and up and coming writer.
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