The Red Badge of Courage Questions (13 questions)

Question Description

I’m trying to study for my English course and I need some help to understand this question.

1. "Something new." "Never been guessed before." "A very fresh note." The critics agreed there was something different going on here. Many books about war, some quite realistic, had already been written.

Describe what was fresh in Crane's approach to writing about war.

The Red Badge of Courage and First-Hand Accounts of War
First Person

Locate a brief passage (about a paragraph in length) from The Red Badge of Courage that describes a battle scene with much confusion. Contrast it with the following third-person passage from The Successes and Failures of Chancellorsville by General Alfred Pleasonton, from "The Century Illustrated Monthly" Magazine, May 1886 to October 1886 Pleasonton's account—like Crane's—is action-packed and quite specific. Its perspective, however, is wider and it is written in the third person.

Shots were fired at hazard in every direction. The First and Third Virginia regiments, no longer recognizing each other, charge upon each other mutually; Stuart's mounted men, generally so brave and so steadfast, no longer obey the orders of their officers, and gallop off in great disorder. At last quiet is restored, and the brigade finally reaches Spotsylvania Court House, while the small band which has caused so much alarm to Stuart was quietly retiring to Chancellorsville.

*2. Which passage below comes closest to giving the reader the feeling he is actually experiencing the event? In what ways?

A Blow-by-Blow Description

Locate a brief passage (about a paragraph) from The Red Badge of Courage that offers a blow-by-blow description of events in a battle. Contrast it with the letter from Peter Boyer to his father, written sometime in May 1863, which summarizes the letter this way: "Boyer provides a description of the Chancellorsville battle in Virginia." Boyer relates an experience that happened in "the thickest of the fight."

*3. What do we learn from Boyer about "the thickest of the fight?"

*4. What do we learn from Crane's passage?

Vivid Imagery

Locate a brief passage (about a paragraph in length) from The Red Badge of Courage that offers vivid imagery to describe events in a battle. Contrast it with The Artillery at Hazel Grove, a description of one small part of the Chancellorsville battle that emphasizes military strategy. The Artillery at Hazel Grove is very specific in its description of the movements of troops and equipment.

*5. What is the purpose of the writer's actions during the Chancellorsville battle?

*6. What is Crane's purpose? (author's purpose)

*7. How does each passage differ in its effect on the reader?

A Minimum of Linking Narrative

Locate a brief passage (about a paragraph in length) from The Red Badge of Courage that describes the course of an assault using details and mental associations rather than factual or realistic representation. Contrast it with the following excerpt (written in the first person) from "Chancellorsville," a first-hand account of the battle from the Confederate point of view, from Chapter VIII of Reminiscences of the Civil War by John B.Gordon.

While the battle was progressing at Chancellorsville, near which point Lee's left rested, his right extended to or near Fredericksburg. Early's division held this position, and my brigade the right of that division; and it was determined that General Early should attempt, near sunrise, to retake the fort on Marye's Heights, from which the Confederates had been driven the day before. I was ordered to move with this new brigade, with which I had never been in battle, and to lead in that assault; at least, such was my interpretation of the order as it reached me. Whether it was my fault or the fault of the wording of the order itself, I am not able to say; but there was a serious misunderstanding about it. My brigade was intended, as it afterward appeared, to be only a portion of the attacking force, whereas I had understood the order to direct me to proceed at once to the assault upon the fort; and I proceeded. As I was officially a comparative stranger to the men of this brigade, I said in a few sentences to them that we should know each other better when the battle of the day was over; that I trusted we should go together into that fort, and that if there were a man in the brigade who did not wish to go with us, I would excuse him if he would step to the front and make himself known. Of course, there was no man found who desired to be excused, and I then announced that every man in that splendid brigade of Georgians had thus declared his purpose to go into the fortress. They answered this announcement by a prolonged and thrilling shout, and moved briskly to the attack. When we were under full headway and under fire from the heights, I received an order to halt, with the explanation that the other troops were to unite in the assault; but the order had come too late. My men were already under heavy fire and were nearing the fort. They were rushing upon it with tremendous impetuosity. I replied to the order that it was too late to halt then, and that a few minutes more would decide the result of the charge. General Early playfully but earnestly remarked, after the fort was taken, that success had saved me from being court-martialed for disobedience to orders.

*8. What is the purpose of Gordon's account?

*9. What is the purpose of Crane's account?

In the Style of Documentary Reportage

Locate a brief passage (about a paragraph in length) from The Red Badge of Courage that offers writing in the style of documentary reportage (a kind of "you are there" approach that recounts events by letting people and events speak for themselves through the liberal use of quotations, a focus on details, and a lack of commentary). Compare it to the following excerpt from an English journalist's reports about the Union troops at the Battle of Bull Run, on Page 741 of Recollections of the Civil War - V by Sir William Howard Russell, Ll.D., Special Correspondent of "The Times" (London). .

At that very moment Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward were passing through the ruc'k of the straggling debris. The President soon had a striking proof of the terrible disorganization. An officer of the regular army was endeavoring to get the crowd in Fort Corcoran into order. He was menaced with death, because he threatened to have an officer of the Sixty-ninth shot for disobeying his orders.

The men of the battalion rushed to the President and complained that Sherman—for it was he—had insulted their officer. When the President inquired into the cause of the tumult Sherman replied: "I told the officer that if he refused to obey my orders I would shoot him on the spot! I repeat it now, sir; if I remain in command here, and any man refuses to obey my orders, I will shoot him on the spot." This firmness in the presence of the President overawed the mutineers, and they set about the work that Sherman had ordered them to execute.

*10. How do the passages resemble one another? In other words, what do these passages have in common? This is a comparison, in which you must identify commonalities between the two passages.

*11. What differences are found? In other words, how are these passages different? This is a contrast, in which you must identify differences between the two passages.

*12. A Day in the Life of _______

Create a first-person account that employs the basic stylistic characteristics of The Red Badge of Courage. Begin with a series of five or more images about a specific event: original sketches, family photographs, historical images, or images from magazines and newspapers. Then create your own illustrated, impressionistic account of a particular event. Your event should be a minimum of 200 words.

*13. It is generally accepted that Crane’s purpose in The Red Badge of Courage was to communicate a complete and realistic picture of one soldier’s experience of battle. Describe how he accomplishes this.

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Final Answer

HERE IS the long-awaited, much-anticipated Red Badge assignment: :)I THINK it turned out well. I have long been a Civil War buff, and seem to know a little about the commonalities of the human condition.

Running head: RED BADGE

Red Badge of Courage: A Multi-Hued Rainbow of Battle, Cowardice, Courage and Choice
Name of Student
Name of Institution

Red Badge of Courage: A Multi-Hued Rainbow of Battle, Cowardice, Courage and Choice
The submitted student-generated English Literature project is an expository overview of the
rich, rainbow-like elements of the classic war novel The Red Badge of Courage (1895), by
Stephen Crane. In it, an array exceeding a dozen questions is carefully and cogently examined in
order to demonstrate a full scope of student comprehension and clarity of context. Commencing:
Crane’s ‘Fresh’ – Even Unique – Style of Writing about War
Crane was neither the first – nor certainly the last – to pen words of war, within the winds
of war and the hanging haze of black smoke still over the battlefield of lifeless bodies and
fortunate, bold survivors. Oddly enough, his own combat experience was zero (although later in
life, he did serve as a war correspondent on foreign soil).
This lack of personal perspective in no way serves to hamper Crane’s staggering ability to
paint prosaically and then, heroically beyond question, transform his own mighty pen into a
proverbial sword. The author explains it best: “When I regularly read first-person accounts from
soldiers serving in the Civil War, I often wondered how they felt. Their writing leaves them (and
me) as emotionless as rocks” (Linson, 1958, p. 37).
Two things set Crane apart from other warriors and scribes of war: 1) He dwelt almost
exclusively on the internal (how the soldiers felt), not the external blueprints and battle plans of
a larger picture [case in point: He does not even name the battles he is describing, although they
are surely based in, and centered on, fact]; and, 2) He – incisively and convincingly – tackles the
rather unglamorous salient topic of cowardice in battle, not heroism. Can a coward become a

hero? Or, was he (simultaneously) both all along? No one had ever asked these precise questions
– in precisely this way – before Crane. That alone is his lasting legacy, which survives all battle.
Crane was a mere 24 years old when he put pen to paper and forever unsheathed his own sword.
A Direct Comparison between Writings of General Pleasonton and Crane (in ‘Red Badge’)
The selected passage by the student, from Crane’s Chapter Nine:
In despair, he declared that he was not like those others. He now conceded it
to be impossible that he should ever become a hero. He was a craven loon.
Those pictures of glory were piteous things. He groaned from his heart and went
staggering off. (Crane, 1895, p. 112)
In the passage chosen for scholarly scrutiny, Crane’s protagonist – Union army Private
Henry Fleming – incredibly is thinking and contemplating while he fights, and just after. One can
argue this particular portion of the narrative is indicative of the novel as a whole, in that the
battlefield is in Fleming’s mind. In stark contrast, Gen. Alfred Pleasonton merely (and dryly)
references troop movements and a somewhat passive account of very active events. It should be
duly noted that both authors are speaking in the third person, although Crane much more
eloquently, illustratively and insightfully. Red Badge’s entire encompassing story is, despite false
impression(s) to the contrary, penned in the third person from a somewhat limited point of view.
A Direct Comparison between Writings of Private Boyer and Crane (in ‘Red Badge’)
Crane, at his core, can be infinitely more descriptive – and more active in voice – than
Private Peter Boyer’s (again, dry) accounts of battle and wartime service (Boyer, 1863, p. 1). It is
almost as if the pair of privates are serving in two different wars or, perhaps, even on variant
planets. Private Fleming – through the majesty of Crane’s pen – details each and every bullet

whizzing past his head and magically missing him (Crane, p. 232) as he races headlong (and
unarmed) across the field of glory, all the while gripping with unspeakable patriotism the banner
of his nation and his infantry unit. The reader thus runs with Fleming. In Boyer’s case, one gains
sympathy for the young man, as he speaks (at some length) about the mundane details of serving
in the field, how he obtains his coffee, etc., and how he occasionally bumps into friends and even
family. But, when it comes to direct details of battle, he provides painful few, other than vague
The ‘Thickest of the Fight’
We learn very little about what Private Boyer actually means by this provocative phrase of
interaction, beyond the foundational fact he witnessed (and experienced) some “very hard times”
and that “we had to follow the generals wherever they went” (Boyer, 1863, p. 1). Further (and
remarkably), he relates he participated in “a great battle for seven days” (Boyer, p. 1). Over and
above this, he includes few, if any, details, almost succumbing to the tried-and-true old soldiers’
tendency to never speak of (exact and exacting) battles but merely to internalize their impact.
Comparing to Crane. Crane’s Private Fleming suffers no such silence and he, in fact, leads
the generals instead of following them, when he bounds unceremoniously across the treacherous
battlefield, flag in hand. Thus, Fleming experiences a seminal, single moment in time, while
Boyer conversely expe...

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UC Berkeley

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