The Red Badge of Courage
By Stephen Crane
The Red Badge of Courage was published in 1895, when its author, an impoverished writer living a bohemian life in New York, was only twenty-three. It immediately became a bestseller, and Stephen Crane became famous. Crane set out to create 'a psychological portrayal of fear.' Henry Fleming, a Union Army volunteer in the Civil War, thinks 'that perhaps in a battle he might run. . . . As far as war was concerned he knew nothing of himself.' And he does run in his first battle, full of fear and then remorse. He encounters a grotesquely rotting corpse propped against a tree, and a column of wounded men, one of whom is a friend who dies horribly in front of him. Fleming receives his own 'red badge' when a fellow soldier hits him in the head with a gun. 'The idea of falling like heroes on ceremonial battlefields,' Ford Madox Ford remarked later, 'was gone forever.'