The Red Badge of Courage

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The Red Badge of Courage is an 1895 war novel by American author Stephen Crane. It is considered one of the most influential works in American literature. Of all Crane's works, it has received the most attention from critics. The novel, a depiction on the cruelty of the American Civil War, features a young recruit who overcomes initial fears to become a hero on the battlefield. The book made Crane an international success. Although he was born after the war and had not at the time experienced battle firsthand, the novel is considered an example of American Naturalism.



By March 1893, Stephen Crane had already published his first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, at the age of 21. Maggie was not a success, either financially or critically. Most critics thought the unsentimental Bowery tale crude or vulgar, and Crane was forced to publish the work privately after it was repeatedly rejected for publication.[1]

Crane quickly found inspiration for his next novel, however, while spending hours lounging in a friend's studio and having his portrait painted regularly. He became fascinated with issues of the magazine Century that were largely devoted to famous battles and military leaders from the Civil War.[2] Frustrated with the dryly written stories, Crane stated, "I wonder that some of those fellows don't tell how they felt in those scraps. They spout enough of what they did, but they're as emotionless as rocks."[3] Crane returned to these magazines during subsequent visits to the studio, and eventually the idea of writing a war novel overtook him. He would later state that he "had been unconsciously working the detail of the story out through most of his boyhood" and had imagined "war stories ever since he was out of knickerbockers."[4]

Publication history

A shorter version of Crane's manuscript was first serialized in The Philadelphia Press in December 1894. This version of the story was then reprinted in newspapers across America, establishing Crane's notoriety. A longer final revision of the manuscript was printed in book form by D. Appleton & Company in October 1895. W. W. Norton & Company published the unrevised manuscript version in 1982.[5]

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