The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Stephen Crane (1871–1900) lived only twenty-eight years. In that time, he earned a reputation as a great American novelist, poet, and short-story writer; was a forerunner of literary movements that flourished long after his death; and became a respected war reporter. Crane met the most noted literary figures of his day; he lived through a shipwreck and near death at sea; and he became one of America’s most notorious literary rebels, even angering a future president. Despite so much action packed into so few years, Crane did have a regret—that he never became a major league baseball player. While we can never be sure what the loss to baseball was, Crane’s chosen profession as a writer helped to spark a revolutionary change in American literature.
Realism Read the handout provided by your teacher. Take notes on the various literary movements mentioned. Each movement will be discussed in greater detail when you take 11th grade English.
The Battle of Chancellorsville Crane never calls the two days of battle he chronicles in The Red Badge of Courage by a specific historical name. Based on certain details in the story, however, many people believe that Crane was describing the Battle of Chancellorsville. In this battle General Joseph “Fighting Joe” Hooker led 130,000 Union soldiers against General Robert E. Lee and 60,000 Confederate soldiers. The battle took place on May 2–4, 1862, in Chancellorsville, Virginia, which lies near the Potomac River and the Rappahannock River, which is mentioned in the novel. The land around Chancellorsville was covered with thick forest, making it difficult for soldiers to maneuver. Crane portrays the wooded setting and the difficulties it presents vividly in The Red Badge of Courage. Although Hooker’s men outnumbered Lee’s, so many Union soldiers were killed that the Union soldiers retreated. They left behind, however, many dead Confederate soldiers as well, including one of the most renowned Confederate generals, Stonewall Jackson.
A Quick Note • While RBOC is a novel set during the Civil War, Crane’s main point was to show the reader a realistic depiction of soldier life. To that end, Crane is vague on the big picture of the Civil War, and focuses on the daily grind of a soldier’s life. • You actually don’t need to know much about the Civil War to understand and appreciate RBOC.
Themes • The universal (or big) ideas explored in a literary work. • Four major themes in RBOC: • The nature of courage • The progression towards manhood • The instinct to survive • The world's disregard for life
Motifs • A recurring feature in a literary work. • A few motifs in RBOC: • Auditory Imagery: Noise and silence • Visual Imagery: color • The contrast of youth and maturity • The lack of proper names
Symbols • The representation of abstract concepts through people, places, things, and often colors. • RBOC is a realist novel, so there are very few symbols. • Two symbols in RBOC: • The dead soldier in the chapel of trees • The red sun
2/19: “‘Watch out , and be a good boy.’” 2/20: Finish Chapter 1 2/21: “who stood panting and regarding the troops with defiance.” 2/22: Finish Chapter 2 and stop at “came a sudden spatter of firing.” 2/25: “close to and became familiar with it” 2/26: Finish Chapters 3 and 4 2/27: Chapter 5 2/28: Chapter 6 3/1: Chapter 7 3/4: Chapter 8; Chs. 1-7 Quiz 3/5: Chapter 9 3/6: “There lay the fault.” 3/7: Finish Chapter 11 3/8: “They began to walk like a drunken man and his friend.” 3/11: “on the black level of night.” 3/12: “…poor cuss!” 3/13: Finish Chapter 15 3/14: Chapter 16 3/15: Chapter 17; Chs. 8-16 Quiz 3/18: Chapter 18 3/19: Chapter 19 3/20: Chapter 20 3/21: Chapter 21 3/22: Chapter 22 3/25: Chapter 23 3/26: Chapter 24 3/28: Exam Reading ScheduleAll bullets reference reading for the “night of.”A quotation signifies your stopping point somewhere in a chapter.
Chapter Quote NotesSee the example provided in class. • For each chapter (not each designated reading) you will need to produce Quote Notes. • This involves creating a double-entry journal where you write a quotation on the left, and explain its significance on the right. • These should be written on binder paper, and stapled neatly. You will turn them in on 3/27. • Each chapter requires you to produce three Quote Notes. • One on a theme • One on a motif • One on a literary device
Response Questions (RQs) • You will be given three sets of response questions. • Chs. 1-7 RQs are due the day of the 1-7 quiz. • Chs. 8-16 RQs are due the day of the 8-16 Quiz. • Chs. 17-24 RQs are due the day of the exam. • Your answers should be written in complete sentences. Be detailed.
Response QuestionsChapters 1-7 • What is your first impression of Henry Fleming? • Why does Henry enlist? What new thoughts does he struggle with before battle? Do other soldiers share these thoughts? Explain. • How does Henry perform during the first attack? Why does he run from the battle during the second attack? • Alone in the woods, how does Henry justify his flight? When Henry enters the chapel of trees, does he find comfort? Explain. • Crane usually calls Henry simply “the youth.” What reason might he have for referring to the main character in this way? • What details help to give a realistic picture of the combat experience of Civil War soldiers and of soldiers in general?
Response QuestionsChapters 8-16 • Think about Henry’s experiences with and behavior toward Jim Conklin, Wilson, and the tattered man. What questions would you like to ask Henry about these relationships? • What happens to Jim Conklin? How does Henry respond? How does the wounded “tattered man” treat Henry? Why does Henry desert him? • Why does Henry envy the other soldiers? How does he become wounded? What is ironic, or contradictory, about his “red badge”? • What fear does Henry have as he returns to his regiment? How is he received? What loud remarks does Henry make as the regiment waits to fight? • What change does Henry notice in his friend Wilson? How, in your opinion, does Wilson provide a foil, or contrast, to Henry? • Do you think that Henry’s thoughts and actions in Chapters 8 through 16 illustrate some basic tendencies that all human beings have? Explain.
Response QuestionsChapters 17-24 • What was your response to the ending of the novel? How do you feel about Henry and his journey of self-discovery? • When the enemy charges (in Chapter 17), how does Henry fight? Afterward, how does he feel? How does he feel after eavesdropping on the two officers? • How does Henry earn the praise of his lieutenant? During the regiment’s second charge (in Chapter 23), what role does Henry play? • What memory at first darkens Henry’s proud feelings after the battle? How does he think his experiences have changed him? • Crane repeatedly uses animal images to describe the regiment’s fighting. Find three examples. Based on these images, how do you think the author might define courage? • In what ways do you think the qualities Henry shows in battle would be useful in war today? Explain.
Chs. 1-7 VocabularyCreate Vocabulary Squares by 3/4 • annihilate v. to totally destroy • ardor n. burning passion • din n. loud, jarring noise • fathom v. to understand; to probe • ominous adj. forecasting disaster or threat • prowess n. bravery and skill • solemnly adv. seriously • tumult n. uproar; disorder
Chs. 8-16 VocabularyCreate Vocabulary Squares by 3/15 • conjure v. to think up • derisive adj. scornful • frenzy n. wild or violent activity • gaunt adj. excessively thin • plight n. unfortunate situation • spectral adj. ghostly • sullenly adv. gloomily; with silent anger • transfixed adj. held motionless • valor n. bravery • vindication n. justification; confirmation
Chs. 17-24 VocabularyCreate Vocabulary Squares by 3/28 • clamor n. noisy shouting • delirium n. confused or excited mental state • despondent adj. depressed; hopeless • frantic adj. emotionally out of control • gospels n. things taken to be the truth • lurid adj. shockingly pale; horrifying
Vocabulary Square Example Instead of a picture, you may also choose list three synonyms or three antonyms.
Fix-up StrategiesChs. 1-2 • I bet it’s been a long time since you read a novel and actually didn’t quite understand everything. Well, get used to it honors students! • On a piece of binder paper, write lines from Chs.1 and 2 of RBOC that confused you. Under each line, explain how you eventually figured out the meaning. • Dictionary • Google search • Context clue • Phone a friend (asked someone) • Something else?