The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane

Historical and Cultural Context

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane is set during the American Civil War, a conflict from 1861 to 1865 between the Northern and Southern states of the USA. 

The war primarily revolved around issues of slavery and states' rights. 

Published in 1895, Crane's novel came three decades after the war, but its memory still loomed large in American consciousness. Unlike many war narratives of his time, Crane focused on the psychological experiences of a young soldier, offering a unique and realistic portrayal of war's trauma. He wrote this novel without experiencing war firsthand, relying on veterans' accounts and his own imagination. 

Culturally, the novel emerged during a time when realism in literature was becoming popular, moving away from romanticised portrayals of conflict to show the grittier, human side of war.

1. When is The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane set?

A. World War I

B. The Revolutionary War

C. The American Civil War

D. World War II

2. What was a main reason for the American Civil War?

A. Taxation without representation

B. The Industrial Revolution

C. Issues of slavery and states' rights

D. Territorial disputes

3. When was The Red Badge of Courage published?

A. 1855

B. 1865

C. 1885

D. 1895

4. What was unique about Crane's portrayal of war in his novel?

A. He focused on the political leaders.

B. He portrayed it as a glorious and heroic endeavour.

C. He highlighted the psychological experiences of a young soldier.

D. He wrote about his own experiences in the war.

DISCUSSION:  The Red Badge of Courage teaches us about fear and anxiety. Can we be brave without fear? How can we be brave and face our fears?  

Further reading

1. Bassan, Maurice, ed. Stephen Crane: A Collection of Critical Essays. Prentice-Hall, 1967.

This book offers a collection of critical essays analysing various aspects of Stephen Crane's works.

2. Benfey, Christopher. The Double Life of Stephen Crane. Knopf, 1992.

Benfey delves into the dualistic nature and experiences of Stephen Crane's life and its influence on his writing.

3. Bloom, Harold. Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage. Chelsea House Publishers, reprint edition 1996.

Harold Bloom provides a critical examination of Stephen Crane's novel. 

4. Hungerford, Harold. R. “That Was at Chancellorsville: The Factual Framework of The Red Badge of Courage.” American Literature_, vol. 34, no. 4, Duke University Press, January 1963.

Explores the factual events of the Battle of Chancellorsville and their relation to Crane's novel. 

5. Mitchell, Lee Clark, ed. New Essays on The Red Badge of Courage. Cambridge University Press, reprint edition 2004.

A compilation of fresh essays that shed light on various facets of The Red Badge of Courage.

6. Pizer, Donald, ed. _Critical Essays on Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage_. G. K. Hall & Company, 1990.

Pizer's collection contains various critical essays discussing different perspectives on The Red Badge of Courage.

7. Robertson, Michael. Stephen Crane, Journalism, and the Making of American Literature. Columbia University Press, 1997.

Robertson analyses the influence of journalism on Stephen Crane's writings and its broader impact on American literature.