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Literature: The Red Badge of Courage
He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage.

The Red Badge of Courage is a novel about the Civil War, and is probably the modern Trope Codifier for War Is Hell. Henry Fleming, a young soldier of 304th regiment, joined the Union army with wide-eyed ideas about the glory of battle and service to his country. On the eve of his first battle, he worries he will not have the fortitude to face combat.


This novel provides examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: The rating the 304th Regiment gave to their commanding officer after he calls the entire regiment "mud diggers".
  • The American Civil War: Based canonically (according to the sequel, The Veteran) on the Battle of Chancellorsville.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: In The Veteran, it's reveal that Henry gained the rank of sergeant through fighting.
  • Babies Ever After: Old Henry decided to settle down after the war and have a family, with a grandson called Jim.
  • Child Soldiers: A lot of soldiers. Henry, for example, is still in school.
  • Coming-of-Age Story
  • Deconstruction: War Is Glorious? Think again.
  • Determinator: When most of the Confederate force the 304th Regiment have to face runs away, five people stayed and kept fighting.
  • Died Standing Up: Jim Conklin.
  • Dirty Coward: Henry at first before Character Development turns him into a total Badass.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Averted, since there is very little warfare actually shown; Henry is fleeing for much of it, and in the end he becomes a man because he doesn't want to fight any more.
  • Grey and Gray Morality: The novel avoids discussing which side is right. Just that both sides are fighting. Stephen Crane goes even a step further and just call the Unions "blue" and Confederates "gray", except in dialogues such as when the cheerful soldier led Henry back to 304th regiment and called the Confederates "Johnnies", a derogatory slang at that time towards the Confederates.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Henry has a romantic notion of this at the beginning of the novel.
    • In The Veteran, Old Henry tries to save the two old colts at the end of a burning barn. The roof collapses before he would've gotten out.
  • Jumped at the Call: Henry, without realizing what he's doing until he's too deep in it. Considering it's The American Civil War, there were probably lots more.
  • Narcissist: Henry at the beginning. Character Development changed that.
  • Oh, Crap: Many soldiers, including Henry, panic when the Confederates charge a second time. Also when Henry and Wilson overhear that their regiment will be used as Cannon Fodder.
  • Redemption in the Rain: The last chapter of the book after Henry self reflected on his past.
    It rained. 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. He had rid himself of the red sickness of battle. The sultry nightmare was in the past. He had been an animal blistered and sweating in the heat and pain of war. He turned now with a lover's thirst to images of tranquil skies, fresh meadows, cool brooks—an existence of soft and eternal peace.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Many things symbolize that nature does not care about humanity, such as:
    • the decaying body of an Union soldier Henry found when he runs away
    • the clear skies after a battle.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: Jim Conklin
  • Tattered Flag: In the movie adaption, Henry charged with the tattered Union flag. He captured the Dixie in the end, more tattered than the Union flag.
  • Title Drop: Henry muses to himself as he walks with the wounded men away from the battle that he wished he was wounded too. If he had such a "red badge of courage" it would erase his cowardice, and prove he was a worthy man.
  • Trope Codifier: For the War Is Hell theme and American realism as a genre.
  • War Is Hell: This is the Civil War we're talking about, so wounds, death, intense pain and infection! JOY!
  • We Have Reserves: When the general (presumably Joseph Hooker) ask an officer what regiment could become the Cannon Fodder:
    Officer: But there's th' 304th. They fight like a lot 'a mule drivers. I can spare them best of any.

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alternative title(s): The Red Badge Of Courage; Red Badge Of Courage
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