2007: 134. The Red Badge of Courage & Other Stories

“The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fog revealed an army stretched out on hills, resting.”

The Red Badge of Courage & Other Stories, Stephen Crane

Jon and I have been watching and loving Ken Burns’ Civil War this summer (long story short, our tv was broken and we became DVD fiends), and so, when I got to the C’s on my commuting shelf, this seemed like a natural choice.  Plus, my dad has been trying to get me to read this book since I was about twelve years old, so I figured maybe it was time.

It was certainly better than Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (the “other stories” were just about identical, which made it a much faster read, too boot).  More real, more meaningful and much less dialect.*  It is a book about war, and what it really means to be a man, and about how the universe cares nothing for our suffering.  See, e.g. the poetry of Stephen Crane.**  It was clearly a shocker when it came out, and it still has a lot to say about the carnage and meaninglessness of war, a lesson which, unfortunately, we still seem to need a lot of reminding about.

But (and you knew this was coming), it wasn’t quite as good as I’d been expecting.  I think I know too much about the horror of war (at least from a literary perspective, and only that, thank God) and even though this was shocking, it was published before the First World War, and before our modern willingness to read about how bad thing can be.  Even so, I was touched by poor Henry’s war experience, and reminded what waste it all is, and for that I am glad I read it.  

Recommended for:  People who want to think seriously about war, and whether it is worth fighting, and whether, ultimately, the universe cares.

* Though, unfortunately, still a bit.  Blergh.

** Such as:

     A man said to the universe:

    "Sir I exist!"

    "However," replied the universe,

    "The fact has not created in me

    A sense of obligation." 

Date/Place Completed: 8/21/07; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Commuting Boo

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017