The Red Badge of Courage
Stephen Crane was 24 when he wrote this book about war. He never fought in a war and was never in the army. Even though he never had any war experiences, this book is one of the greatest depictions of battle in the history of war books. This book is about the American Civil War. In case you’re wondering, the "Red Badge of Courage" is in reference to a wound. Red means blood – like a badge of courage because getting injured during war was brave. Go figure.
Henry Fleming: The main character of the book, he is a young soldier from New York. He lives on a farm, and his dad is dead, but his mom is alive. He joins the army because he likes all that hero stuff. At first, he is scared and a big wimp. Then he gets wounded, and is not scared anymore. After that, he kicks some serious ass. We don’t learn his name until the middle of the book, so don’t screw up in class and say his name before you get to that chapter. Henry fights for the North (Union).
Henry’s mom: Henry’s mom is a good mother. She loves him and babies him too much. She doesn’t want him to go to war. She is in the book in the beginning and then is gone.
Jim Conklin: He is a childhood friend of Henry’s who is in his army platoon. Jim is known as the tall soldier. Jim is cool, calm, and collected in battle. He gets killed during battle.
Wilson: Wilson is a friend of Henry’s in his division. Wilson is a loudmouth. In the beginning he is loud and cocky, but in the end he changes into a cool dude.
"Tattered Man": We never learn this guy’s name. He’s just some dude that Henry meets when Henry is retreating from a battle. The tattered man was taking care of some wounded soldiers. He’s a nice guy.
Bill Smithers: A soldier who went to the hospital and faked injury just so he wouldn’t have to fight. He got caught. He doesn’t mind being a big wimp.
Lt. Hasbrouck: This guy is the lieutenant of Henry’s division. He is a good leader and a brave dude.
In the beginning, Henry signs up for the army because he thinks it would be cool to be a hero. His mom doesn’t want him to be in the army. When Henry goes to the army, he gets assigned into a division. His division doesn’t do anything for a while and just sits on their asses. Henry becomes scared because he doesn’t know if he will be a wimp in the first battle. In his first battle, he fights well, but then chickens out and runs away. He feels like a dope because he later finds out that his division won that battle (no need for him to retreat).
Then Henry takes a walk to think about some stuff. He meets some wounded soldiers and gets jealous because he wants a wound, too, because they seem cool. Then he finds out that one of the wounded guys is his friend, Jim. Jim dies. Then Henry runs into a group of soldiers retreating. He accidentally bumps one and he gets injured. Henry goes back to his division and makes up some lie about how he got the injury (from the enemy). Now that Henry is injured, for some reason he gets more confidence and bravery. At the next battle, Henry is pumped and he kicks some major ass. In the end he realizes he is now a man.
CHAPTER BY CHAPTER
- In the beginning of the book, there’s a scene where three soldiers argue: A loud soldier, a young soldier, and a tall soldier. We don’t get their names until later.
- They argue about if their division is moving to some other place. The tall soldier says they are.
- Then the book goes back to Henry, before he was in the army.
- Henry digs all that hero stuff. He wants to enlist in the army to fight in the Civil War.
- His mom wants him to stay home and work on the farm. But he goes anyway. She cries when he leaves. He takes a train to DC to army camp.
- At his army camp, all Henry does is sit around. He is disappointed because he isn’t doing any hero stuff.
- Then the story goes back to those three soldiers arguing. The tall soldier is named Jim Conklin. He and Henry talk about if soldiers ever wimp out and run away.
- Henry hears war stories from other soldiers and becomes scared of the first time he is in battle.
- The soldiers find out that they are not moving, like they thought.
- Time passes, and then one morning, Henry’s division moves.
- One of the fat soldiers tries to steal a horse from a house and the owner catches him.
- The soldiers travel. We find out that the loud soldier is named Wilson.
- Henry asks him about running away (because Henry is concerned he might run).
- The rest of this chapter just describes Henry and his feelings.
- Henry feels like an outsider. Even though he wants to become a hero, he is scared.
- Henry’s division crosses a river. Then they go into the forest and take off some clothing because it is damn hot.
- Then they walked up a hill and hear gunfire. They find a dead soldier on the ground.
- Then the division keeps moving. They walk through another forest.
- Henry is becoming pissed because they are not really doing anything useful.
- Wilson comes to talk to Henry. He gives Henry a letter to send to his (Wilson’s) parents, because Wilson thinks he is going to die in the next battle.
- **Remember, We DON’T know Henry’s name yet. He is just referred to as the "Young Soldier"**
- The troops prepare for battle. Henry is scared, Jim is cool, and Wilson thinks he is going to die.
- The soldiers get ready to rumble.
- One soldier tells a story about Bill Smithers who faked injury to get out of war. The doctor wanted to amputate his fingers, but Bill fought him off.
- The division ahead of Henry’s division gets their ass kicked. Henry sees war for the first time.
- Henry’s Lt. gets shot in the hand. Henry is now scared of fighting.
- The division starts to fight. Henry is nervous, and starts firing his gun.
- Henry sees all these guys die around him. Some run, some get killed.
- Then the book does some more description crap and does some imagery stuff. Like, Henry talks about the sun shining during battle. Also the color red is mentioned a lot in this chapter... symbolism.
- The battle is over and Henry is resting. His division held the enemy back.
- Then the enemy (Confederate army) attacks again. Henry is weak and tired.
- Two soldiers next to Henry ran away in fear. Henry thinks that his whole division is retreating, so Henry runs away as fast as he can.
- He sees other divisions going the other way towards the battle. He is confused.
- Then Henry learns that his division actually won that battle.
- Henry’s division and the Union army won that battle.
- He is happy, but then is pissed because he ran away. He didn’t think his army would win the battle.
- Henry feels like crap so he walks into a forest to clear his head and get away from the noisy battle.
- Henry walks through the forest. He throws a pinecone at a squirrel. Then he discovers a dead soldier on the ground, with ants on his face.
- Henry hears a loud noise. He runs back to where the battle is.
- Henry starts to feel embarrassed because he was a wimp and ran away from the battle instead of fighting.
- On his way back, Henry runs into a group of wounded soldiers. All of them are hurt pretty badly. He meets a soldier who Henry calls the "Tattered soldier."
- He and the soldier start talking.
- Henry feels bad that all of these guys are hurt and he is not. Then Henry looks at the other hurt soldiers and recognizes one. It is Jim Conklin.
- Jim is in pretty bad shape and asked to be carried to the side of the road so the artillery vehicles won’t run him over.
- Henry helps Jim to the side but then Jim runs into a field. He wants to be alone when he dies.
- Jim dies in the field.
- Henry is talking with the tattered soldier about Jim’s death. Henry is really upset and the tattered soldier consoles him.
- The tattered soldier tells Henry that he got shot in the arm and head. Then he asks Henry if he is wounded. Henry lies and says he is. The tattered soldier asks Henry where the wound is, but Henry keeps avoiding the question.
- The tattered soldier guesses that his "wound" is inside.
- Henry leaves the group of wounded soldiers.
- Henry is still hung up on his retreat and wimpy behavior. He still wants to be a hero though.
- This chapter is kind of slow. Just a description of what Henry is thinking about
- Henry thinks more about what it would be like if he were a hero in the war. He also thinks about his friends in his division and what they are doing now.
- Henry sees a lot of soldiers retreating. He grabs a soldier to ask him why they are retreating. The soldier accidentally hits Henry in the head with his gun. He is hurt a little bit.
- Then a soldier named the "cheery voiced soldier" finds Henry and helps him. On the way back he fills Henry in on all the battles and what happened.
- Henry and the cheery voice guy talk some more about Henry’s wounds and the cheery guy tells Henry some story about a wounded guy in his division.
- Then Henry sees his division and goes back to them.
- Henry is scared that his division is going to make fun of him because he is a wimp and ran away.
- Actually, the soldiers were happy to see him again. Then Henry lies and tells them that he kept fighting and got shot in the head.
- Henry is welcomed back and his division is really nice to him. They think he’s brave now because he is wounded.
- This chapter is all about Wilson and how he has changed.
- Wilson is very nice to Henry and helps him clean his wound and stuff.
- Wilson is different now; he is not as loud and obnoxious as he was earlier.
- Wilson and Henry talk about Jim Conklin dying. Then Henry talks about battle and tells some bull story about how he was fighting.
- Henry is changed.
- Now that everyone buys his bull story about fighting and getting shot in the head (even though the wound was really an accident), he thinks he is brave now and acts that way.
- Henry’s division goes back to battle to relieve some other division.
- Some of the soldiers, including Henry, start talking crap about the Generals and how they make really bad decisions.
- Henry is still acting brave but one soldier calls him on it, so Henry returns to being modest.
- The soldiers go to another battle.
- This time Henry does not run, he kicks ass.
- Now Henry is a good soldier and fights.
- The author uses a lot of animal images in this chapter, to compare Henry’s fighting to an animal.
- This soldier named Jimmy Rogers dies.
- Henry talks to a general.
- Henry finds out that the generals think Henry’s division is a bunch of chumps. Even though they fight well, the generals think his division is expendable.
- Henry continues to fight in the battles. He is a crazy son of a bitch now, fighting like a tiger.
- This chapter just describes the battles and stuff like that.
- Henry and Wilson see a soldier who is hurt. The soldier is carrying their flag. Henry thinks it is heroic to go save the flag from falling on the ground.
- Henry is now acting like a real soldier. He tells the men not to run away and raises the flag to pump them up.
- This chapter has more long descriptions of the battle and Henry’s actions.
- Henry’s division defeats the enemy and return to their camp. When they get there, the older soldiers make fun of the young guys.
- The young guys did not do a lot in terms of helping the Union. It was only a small victory.
- The general who badmouthed the division earlier comes and yells at them. He is mad because they returned too early instead of putting pressure on the enemy and driving them back even farther.
- Lt. Hasbrouck said some good things about Henry and Wilson because they saved the flag from falling and they rallied the troops with it.
- This chapter describes more battles from Henry’s point of view. In these battles Henry is in charge of holding the flag.
- He sees a lot of blue uniform guys and gray uniform guys beat the crap out of each other.
- The enemy hides behind a fence. Since Henry’s division doesn’t want to get yelled at by the general again they try really hard to kill all the enemies.
- Everyone in the division looks tired and dirty.
- This chapter talks about their final battles against the enemy.
- All the soldiers in Henry’s division fight very well.
- The soldiers take 4 Confederate prisoners. One is quiet, one is a jerk, one of friendly, and the 4th is wounded.
- Henry’s division wins the battles.
- Henry started out as a wimp, and then became a brave soldier. In the span of the book, he changed from a boy to a man.
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