Stephen Crane‘s The Red Badge of Courage is a short, but detailed fictional account of the gruesomeness of war and the struggle to prove your own bravery. The story focuses on Henry Fleming, an 18 year old boy with the desire and drive to join the military despite his mother’s protestations.
The private has rose-colored visions of war and of his own bravery. All of these visions are shattered when Henry finds himself fleeing the battle. Ashamed of his own shortcomings and fear, Henry returns to his regiment and is pleasantly surprised when his desertion is not recognized. Henry finds himself introspective and he wonders at his own cowardice.
Although Stephen Crane himself had no experience in war, The Red Badge of Courage is hailed as an accurate description of the horrors of war. I found it interesting. Rarely does a war novel focus on the fears and cowardice of man, they usually focus on the bravery involved and the honor in dying during battle. Interesting subject matter, nothing really noteworthy, though.