I can’t readily recall how many times I have read The Red Badge of Courage… nevertheless, I love reading it because of the rich dialogue and entertaining narrative it contains.
Having served in the military for a number of years, I have often wondered and contemplated what hand-to-hand combat might be like. I have fought numerous battles on the field of contact sports. I have studied and read about many war stories from individuals who have had this experience.
However, I cannot bridge that gap of understanding of how I would react in a similar situation such as Henry Fleming found himself in on the battlefield of war. Hopefully, or not, I will never glean this knowledge at this particular juncture in my life.
My ten favorite quotes from The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, (1999) are as follows:
Quotes cited from “The Red Badge of Courage” follow this format: (E-book Location)
A Red Badge of Courage
1. At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He conceived persons with torn bodies to be peculiarly happy. He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage. (982,983)
Comment: From the number of books I have read about war, there is that mindset of some soldiers–who fought in a battle and did not suffer a physical injury in one form or another–that they have been cheated some way.
A Tired Man Resting
2. The men dropped here and there like bundles. The captain of the youth’s company had been killed in an early part of the action. His body lay stretched out in the position of a tired man resting, but upon his face there was an astonished and sorrowful look, as if he thought some friend had done him an ill turn. The babbling man was grazed by a shot that made the blood stream widely down his face. He clapped both hands to his head. “Oh!” he said, and ran.
Another grunted suddenly as if he had been struck by a club in the stomach. He sat down and gazed ruefully. In his eyes, there was mute, indefinite reproach. Farther up the line a man, standing behind a tree, had had his knee joint splintered by a ball. Immediately he had dropped his rifle and gripped the tree with both arms. And there he remained, clinging desperately and crying for assistance that he might withdraw his hold upon the tree. (676)
Comment: The thoughts that must go through one’s mind in the heat of battle… not a time to think but act!
Oh! The Vanity
3. On the way to Washington, his spirit had soared. The regiment was fed and caressed at station after station until the youth had believed that he must be a hero. There was a lavish expenditure of bread and cold meats, coffee, and pickles and cheese. As he basked in the smiles of the girls and was patted and complimented by the old men, he had felt growing within him the strength to do mighty deeds of arms. (170)
Comment: Oh the vanity… this is a feeling I have experienced as a soldier!
Jigging Heavy in the Smoke
4. Wallowing in the fight, they were in an astonishingly short time resmudged. They surpassed in stain and dirt all their previous appearances. Moving to and fro with strained exertion, jabbering all the while, they were, with their swaying bodies, black faces, and glowing eyes, like strange and ugly fiends jigging heavily in the smoke. (2150)
Comment: The sensations of sight and sound that are experienced in a fight to the death must be overwhelming.
5. The youth reflected. He had been used to regarding his comrade as a blatant child with an audacity grown from his inexperience, thoughtless, headstrong, jealous, and filled with a tinsel courage. A swaggering babe accustomed to strut in his own dooryard. The youth wondered where had been born these new eyes; when his comrade had made the great discovery that there were many men who would refuse to be subjected by him. Apparently, the other had now climbed a peak of wisdom from which he could perceive himself as a very wee thing. And the youth saw that ever after it would be easier to live in his friend’s neighborhood. (1484)
Comment: I can relate to this sentiment. I often perceive “others” to be superior to myself in a number of ways. However, after I get to know them I often find out that they have the same fears, concerns, doubts, and anxieties that I do about life and similar circumstances
Oaths and Walking Sticks
6. The procession of weary soldiers became a bedraggled train, despondent and muttering, marching with churning effort in a trough of liquid brown mud under a low, wretched sky. Yet the youth smiled, for he saw that the world was a world for him, though many discovered it to be made of oaths and walking sticks. (2330)
Comment: I have seldom if ever, felt alone in life. Although, I understand that it is a debilitating enemy to contend with. Henry takes solace in knowing that he is not alone or insignificant.
Seize the Moment
7. The sun spread disclosing rays, and, one by one, regiments burst into view like armed men just born of the earth. The youth perceived that the time had come. He was about to be measured. For a moment he felt in the face of his great trial like a babe, and the flesh over his heart seemed very thin. He seized time to look about him calculatingly. (429)
Comment: Ah yes… the moments before going into the heat of battle where “life” hangs in the balance. I have experienced this feeling many times in my life when trying new things such as parachuting out of an airplane the first four or five times.
8. Following this came a red rage. He developed the acute exasperation of a pestered animal, a well-meaning cow worried by dogs. He had a mad feeling against his rifle, which could only be used against one life at a time. He wished to rush forward and strangle with his fingers. He craved a power that would enable him to make a world-sweeping gesture and brush all back. His impotency appeared to him, and made his rage into that of a driven beast. (650)
Comment: The frustrations of facing reality is a feeling that I assume we all experience at some point in our lives.
Ring of Victory
9. These thoughts uplifted him. He felt the quiver of war desire. In his ears, he heard the ring of victory. He knew the frenzy of a rapid successful charge. The music of the trampling feet, the sharp voices, the clanking arms of the column near him made him soar on the red wings of war. For a few moments he was sublime. (1170)
Comment: Whether the challenge is large or small, I believe that there comes a time in everyone’s life when they get to experience this sensation.
He’s a Jimhickey
10. “‘Mr. Hasbrouck!’ he ses, ‘by th’ way, who was that lad what carried th’ flag?’ he ses. There, Flemin’, what d’ yeh think ‘a that? ‘Who was th’ lad what carried th’ flag?’ he ses, an’ th’ lieutenant, he speaks up right away: ‘That’s Flemin’, an’ he’s a jimhickey,’ he ses, right away. […] and th’ colonel, he ses: ‘Ahem! ahem! he is, indeed, a very good man t’ have, ahem! He kep’ th’ flag ‘way t’ th’ front. I saw ‘im. He’s a good un,’ ses th’ colonel. ‘You bet,’ ses th’ lieutenant, ‘he an’ a feller named Wilson was at th’ head ‘a th’ charge […] He ses: ‘Well, well, well,’ he ses. ‘They deserve t’ be major-generals'” (2096)
Comment: The meaning of the word “jimhickey” is someone who is outstanding or excellent of their particular kind: “he’s a jimhickey of a soldier.”
Images – Post image: The Red Badge of Courage. Digital Image Book Cover. Amazon (Amazon.com) / Content is displayed for educational purposes in accordance with the Fair Use clause of the United States copyright code. Web 20 May 2016. https://www.amazon.com/Badge-Courage-Dover-Thrift-Editions/dp/0486264653/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=.
Quotes – Crane, S. (1999). The Red Badge of Courage. Reed Business Information, Inc.