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The Red Badge of Courage


Title and Publication:

The Red Badge of Courage was published by D. Appleton and Company in 1895, about thirty years after the Civil War ended.


Stephen Crane


The scenes take place in the fields and roads of the American South, as a Union regiment wanders through Confederate territory and encounters the enemy on the battlefield.

Main Characters:

Henry Fleming, the main character (protagonist).
Jim Conklin, a soldier who dies in an early battle. Jim's death forces Henry to face his own lack of courage and reminds Jim of the stark reality of war.
Wilson, a mouthy soldier who cares for Jim when he is wounded. Jim and Wilson seem to grow and learn together in battle.
The wounded, tattered soldier, whose nagging presence forces Jim to face his own guilty conscience.


Henry Fleming begins as a naive young man, eager to experience the glory of war. He soon faces the truth about war and his own self-identity on the battlefield, however.

As the first encounter with the enemy approaches, Henry wonders if he will be brave in the face of battle. In fact, Henry does panic and flee in an early encounter. This experience sets him on a journey of self-discovery, as he struggles with his conscience and re-examines his opinions about war, friendship, courage, and life.

Questions to Ponder:

Think about these questions and points as you read the book. They will help you determine a theme and develop a strong thesis.

Examine the theme of inner versus outer turmoil:
What role does Henry's conscience play?
What does Henry learn from each soldier's death?

Examine male and female roles:
What role does Henry's mother play?
What does this novel suggest about our concepts of masculinity and courage? What does this novel suggest about our concepts of war?

Possible First Sentences:

  • Sometimes, we have to come face to face with our fears to learn something about ourselves.
  • Have you ever been really afraid?
  • The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, is a story about growing up.
  • What is bravery?
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