The Red Badge of Courage

By Stephen Crane
Read by Anthony Heald

4.67 Hours 05/02/2008 unabridged
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Following its initial appearance in serial form, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage was published as a complete work in 1895 and quickly became the benchmark for modern anti-war literature. In Henry Flemming, Stephen Crane creates a great and realistic study of the mind of an inexperienced soldier trapped in the fury and turmoil of war. Flemming dashes into battle, at first tormented by fear, then bolstered with courage in time for the final confrontation. Although the exact battle is never identified, Crane based this story of a soldier’s experiences during the American Civil War on the 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville. Many veterans, both Union and Confederate, praised the book’s accurate representation of war, and critics consider its stylistic strength the mark of a literary classic.

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Summary

Summary

Following its initial appearance in serial form, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage was published as a complete work in 1895 and quickly became the benchmark for modern anti-war literature. In Henry Flemming, Stephen Crane creates a great and realistic study of the mind of an inexperienced soldier trapped in the fury and turmoil of war. Flemming dashes into battle, at first tormented by fear, then bolstered with courage in time for the final confrontation.

Although the exact battle is never identified, Crane based this story of a soldier’s experiences during the American Civil War on the 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville. Many veterans, both Union and Confederate, praised the book’s accurate representation of war, and critics consider its stylistic strength the mark of a literary classic.

Editorial Reviews

Editorial Reviews

“There was no real literature of our Civil War...until Stephen Crane wrote The Red Badge of Courage.” Ernest Hemingway
“One should be forever slow in charging an author with genius, but it must be confessed that The Red Badge of Courage is open to the suspicion of having greater power and originality that can be girdled by the name of talent.” New York Press
“Anthony Heald does a superb job performing Stephen Crane’s 1895 book, which has been called the first modern novel about war. The novel tells the story of Henry Fleming, but at times scenes employ a montage of brief comments by fellow soldiers to suggest the feelings of the infantry as a whole. Heald is especially good at rendering these snippets and interjections without a loss of clarity. His energetic pacing and varied intonations bring out the drama and the immediacy of battle. Such an approach remains true to the realism of the book. People who have relegated this novel to the tenth grade should experience Heald's reading. He brings Crane to life.” AudioFile
“Crane’s realistic recounting of a young man’s first experience with war is a storyteller’s dream and Heald’s fully voiced presentation is without peer. His crusty voice has the twang of a Midwestern farm boy and rises and falls with the appropriate emotion of the scene. Listeners will visualize the battlefield, hear the popping of rifles, and smell the smoke of the cannons...Listeners will enjoy the action of this classic American war story, and are likely to delve more deeply into the story and explore the reasons for Henry’s feelings and even make some personal comparisons. With the conflicts in the world today, some listeners may be placed in situations similar to Henry’s. This audiobook belongs in every school, public, and personal library.” Kliatt

Reviews

Reviews

by Bertie Wooster 9/13/2017
Overall Performance
Narration
Story

Good, But Something of a Museum Piece

The whole point of this book—the reason why it ranks so high in the American Literary Pantheon—is that it was written to give us a soldier’s-eye view of combat.

Reading back issues of the Century Magazine in the early 1890’s, Stephen Crane was struck by two things: first, most of the articles in the magazine’s Battles and Leaders series were written by the leaders, not the men in the ranks. Second, Crane wondered, “that some of these fellows don’t tell how they felt in those scraps!” And so America’s first Naturalistic novel was born.

And so, as a kid I was repeatedly urged to read The Red Badge of Courage. Of course I never did. But I retained the impression that the book, above all others, recreated the external experience and internal struggles of the man in the ranks. And for years I also retained a lingering sense that I had dodged a serious cultural obligation.

Thanks to Downpour I’m finally free of my impression of the book and my guilt over having dodged it for so long. Let me explain.

Having spent the intervening years reading soldiers’ diaries, letters and memoirs, along with campaign studies that drew heavily on even more diaries, letters and memoirs, I’m pretty familiar with the motivations, thoughts and self-reproaches of the men on both sides. For decades now, writing history “from the bottom up”, (as well as “from the inside out”, analyzing motivations as much as actions) has become so commonplace that the pendulum has actually begun to swing back, with some historians reasserting the importance of leaders their actions. Still, the focus of academic and popular history has been Crane’s focus: the thoughts, feelings and actions of the common man. So The Red Badge of Courage, which came as a revelatory thunderbolt to readers in 1895—a mere 30 years after Appomattox—struck this listener as somewhat less thunderous and revelatory. Crane’s book is to some extent the victim of the literary genre he helped create.

Not that he doesn’t tell a good tale and get the details right. After all, he was working from deep reading as well as first-hand recollections of veterans. There’s a soldier upset at the prospect of a Big Move because he’s just put a new wooden floor under his tent. A rumor started by a friend of a friend who knows a guy attached to the divisional headquarters guard. The man in the firing line only able to guess at the battle to his left, right and rear. And, of course, the whole question of what Civil War soldiers called, “Seeing the Elephant” (combat). Crane handles this deftly, never alluding to the soldierly slang but, as battle approaches, letting his hero’s mind slip back to the feelings he experienced as a young boy waiting for the circus to roll into town.

Still, and understandably, Crane also gets things wrong. Even among raw recruits the question of whether a Big Move was on could be settled quite easily: were orders issued to cook three day’s rations? A small detail, but the rumor launches the story, as well as an almost endless argument that rings a little false. Also, if Henry Flemming’s first battle is Chancellorsville—and everyone, from veterans to modern scholars agree that it is—then his encounter with a moldering Union corpse in the woods couldn’t have happened; the armies had never met in those woods before. Yes, the corpse is there for powerful artistic purposes and yes, this is a work of art, not history. But the question of how it got there is awkward.

Anthony Heald does a fine job with the book, though sometimes Crane’s sentence structure and late-Nineteenth Century word choices make rewinding necessary. And sometimes, (I’m thinking particularly of his “hot ploughshares” passage near the end) in his attempt to clothe the inexplicable in words, Crane takes off in flights of language almost as inexplicable, without moving us any closer to understanding.

Author

Author Bio: Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane (1871–1900) was an American novelist, poet, and journalist. He worked as a reporter of slum life in New York and a highly paid war correspondent for newspaper tycoons William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. He wrote many works of fiction, poems, and accounts of war, all well received but none as acclaimed as his 1895 Civil War novel, The Red Badge of Courage. Today he is considered one of the most innovative American writers of the 1890s and one of the founders of literary realism.

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Details

Details

Available Formats : Digital Download, Digital Rental, CD, MP3 CD
Category: Fiction/Classics
Runtime: 4.67
Audience: Adult
Language: English