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Free Barron's Booknotes Summary-The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
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1. B
2. A
3. A
4. A
5. B
6. A
7. B
8. C
9. B
10. B

11. Read the section on "The Characters" and look at the places in the novel where the loud soldier appears, for examples of his behavior.

The loud soldier helps us to evaluate Henry's behavior by providing us with an example of another young soldier. At first the loud soldier doesn't seem to be frightened by the approaching battle (Chapters 1 and 2). But just before the fighting begins we see that he thinks he's going to die (Chapter 3). This shows us that like the young soldier, he is really worried, and it lets us know that Henry is typical of other young men.

The loud soldier is apparently changed by battle, because when we meet him again in Chapter 13 he is kind and calm. In Chapter 14 Henry notices that the loud soldier (who is now called "the friend") has come to a better understanding of his importance in the world. The loud soldier's maturation prepares us for a similar change in Henry. When the loud soldier fights courageously at Henry's side in the closing chapters of the book, it shows us, again, that Henry is not so unusual.

12. Read the section on "The Critics," the discussion of Jim Conklin in "The Characters," and look closely at the analysis of Chapter 9 in "The Story."

Some readers have seen The Red Badge of Courage as a story about Christian redemption. They see the red sun pasted in the sky like a wafer at the end of Chapter 9 as a symbol of the communion wafer, and Jim Conklin, whose initials are J.C., as a symbol of Jesus Christ. They say that Jim's death redeems Henry's sin in running away and sets him on the path to salvation.

To argue in favor of this position, use the details provided in the discussion of Chapter 9. These include Jim's character, his initials, his wounds, and the description of his death as "ritelike."

To argue against, you could say that not all of the details about Jim fit. Does his body bouncing a little way off the ground as he dies really mean the resurrection? Also, Jim is described as looking like "a devotee of a mad religion"- which couldn't be Christianity. In addition, courage is described as being animal-like or pagan, not Christian. So as Henry becomes courageous, he is becoming less Christian, not more. You could also argue that the sun really looks red through smoke, and that the sun in Chapter 9, like the suns in Chapters 5, 17, and 24, only echoes Henry's mood, which in this case is awful. Finally, if you read the section on "The Author and His Times," you will see that Stephen Crane was the son, grandson, and nephew of Methodist clergymen. What would a Methodist have to do with communion wafers?

13. Naturalism is a belief that people are powerless and that their lives are controlled by heredity and/or environment (including the economy). Naturalists see man as having an animal nature. They tend to be amoral (without morality) unsentimental, frank, and objective.

Does The Red Badge of Courage fit any of these descriptions? To some extent it does. Crane frequently describes war as an animal or a machine. Individual soldiers are also described as animals and machines, they lose their identity in the group. Heroic behavior is shown to be instinctive (and animal at that). Henry Fleming doesn't have much choice in what happens to him. He thinks of the regiment as a "moving box" (Chapter 2) that traps him. Nature is shown to be indifferent to what happens to men. Some of the descriptions of death and battle are quite graphic and upsetting.

But The Red Badge of Courage is not a totally naturalistic novel. Henry is shown as having some choice (in going back to the regiment, for example). The example of Bill Smithers (see "The Characters") shows that he could have gone to the hospital. Some descriptions are frank, but others are not; the soldiers do not use profanity. And the end of the book tends to be somewhat hopeful, which most naturalistic novels are not.

14.The Red Badge of Courage takes place during the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, but Crane gives very little detail about the Civil War. In fact, he never tells us straight out the name of the battle Henry is fighting in. We can figure it out only by putting some clues (like the name of the river in Chapter 16) together. He doesn't tell us the names of the sides, only the colors of their uniforms. He doesn't tell us when the action is taking place. And he doesn't even tell us where Henry is from, although again we can figure it out from hints.

By calling his characters "the young soldier," "the tall soldier," "the loud soldier," "the tattered man," and so on, Crane seems to suggest that they are types, not individuals. This is a story about human behavior, not about these particular people. So you cannot really call The Red Badge of Courage a Civil War novel.

You could even say that The Red Badge of Courage isn't really about war at all. The important thing that happens in this book is that Henry works his way through romantic dreams, fear, self-delusion, and shame to become genuinely brave and to reach a realistic view of himself and his place in the world. You could say that this is what it means to grow up, and that other people growing up go through the same stages, whether or not they are soldiers. Someone could grow up in the course of a crisis or an exciting adventure, for example.

15. If you believe that courage is still possible in modern wars, you could say that you could write a novel like The Red Badge of Courage about the Vietnam War. It would have to be about a young soldier growing up in the course of the war, and learning what it means to be brave. (It might mean something different than it did to Henry.) If you don't believe that courage exists in modern war, you would have to answer no.

You might say that you could write a novel about the Vietnam War, but it would be much more bitter and cynical than The Red Badge of Courage. Or the hero might not be a soldier, but a doctor or a civilian injured.

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