Stephen Crane: The Red Badge of Courage

Henry Fleming hat sich freiwillig zum Dienst in der Armee der Nordstaaten im Amerikanischen Bürgerkrieg gemeldet. Er möchte seinen Mut unter Beweis stellen und sich als Mann erweisen. Was er erlebt, ist allerdings ein von Wechselfällen geprägtes inneres Chaos, in dem er zunächst tatsächlich wie ein Besessener kämpft, beim nächsten Angriff des Gegners aber das Gewehr wegwirft und „wie ein Kaninchen“ (Crane) davonrennt.

Crane schrieb diesen Roman 1895 ohne selbst je im Krieg gewesen zu sein. Um so beeindruckender ist die genaue und realistische Darstellung der Szenen. Ob im Lager, auf dem Marsch oder in der Schlacht, Crane versteht es brillant, den Krieg mit seinen einzelnen Facetten zu fassen und dem Leser ein Gefühl für seine psychologischen Auswirkungen auf die Soldaten zu geben.

The Red Badge of Courage ist spannend und zugleich voller Erkenntnis. Der junge Protagonist kann sicherlich als Identifikationsfigur für jugendliche Leser dienen und der relativ geringe Umfang des Buches (158 Seiten in der Penguin Popular Classics Ausgabe) machen es für Schüler leichter, das Buch im Original zu lesen. Ein Buch, das für die Diskussion der Amerikanischen Bürgerkriegs und von Kriegserfahrungen allgemein gut geeignet ist.

Umschlagtext über das Buch

Stephen Crane’s American Civil War masterpiece The Red Badge of Courage is one of the greatest of all war novels.

Two days of fighting on a woodland battlefield are focused through the excited senses of a raw Union recruit, Henry Fleming. Dreaming of heroism, but shamefully discovering his own mortal fear of danger and death – and of fear itself – he flees from his first encounter with Confederate troops. But when he is drawn back into the battle he wins by accident his ‚red badge‘, the wound that signifies initiation into manhood and possession of courage to join the world of men.

The Red Badge of Courage conveys with intense immediacy the sensations, colours, fever and chaos of battle. It concentrates on the experience of an individual soldier, and it is one of the few novels written before this century that meets our modern sense of the realities of mass warfare.

Umschlagtext über den Autor

STEPHEN CRANE (1871-1900). Novelist, short-story writer and poet, Stephen Crane is now best remembered for this brilliant and disturbing account of one man’s initiation into the horror of war.

Born in New Jersey in 1871, Stephen Crane was the youngest of fourteen children of a Methodist Minister and his wife, the daughter of a Methodist bishop. He spent most of his youth in upstate New York but at an early age turned away from his devout roots in favour of baseball, pool and poker. Educated first at Claverack College, he went on to complete one year at Lafayette College and then another at Syracuse University. While at Syracuse he is thought to have started work on his first book, Maggie. A Girl of the Streets.

After college he moved to New York, where he struggled to support himself and finish his book by doing intermittent reporting for the Herald and Tribune. Although Maggie. A Girl of the Streets was eventually published privately in 1893, its subject matter was too grim for it to be really noticed. Later the same year Crane started to write his masterpiece, The Red Badge of Courage. Drawing on only his reading and his enormous imaginative power, the book was published in 1895 to great critical ac claim. He did not experience any first-hand contact with fighting until after the book’s publication, when he spent time as a war re- porter first in the West, then in Mexico, Greece, Cuba and Puerto Rico.

While on an expedition to Cuba in 1896 to report on the Spanish-American War, Crane narrowly escaped death when his ship sank. His struggle for survival later formed the basis for his most famous short story, ‚The Open Boat‘. It was during this strenuous period of his life that Crane first met Cora Steward, the madame of the Hotel de Dream in Jacksonville, Florida. She became his lover and companion for the rest of his life.

Returning to New York in 1898, his health already broken by the hardships he had endured, he was met by vicious rumours not only about the immorality of his common-law wife, but also to the effect that he was no more than a drunk and a drug addict. Disgusted by this unpieasant notoriety, Crane settled in England with Cora in 1899. While there he published two collections of short stories and a second volume of free verse.

He became friends with Joseph Conrad (to whom his work has been compared), H. G. Wells and Henry James. Still plagued by ill health, which was finally diagnosed as tuberculosis, Stephen Crane died in June 1900 at Badenweiler in Germany. He was twenty-nine years old.

His posthumous publications include Great Battles of the World, Last Words, an unfinished romance entitled The O’Ruddy and Men, Women, and Boats. The Red Badge of Courage is one of the greatest novels ever written about war and its psychological effects. The fact that Crane had never experienced a battle before writing the book makes it an amazing feat of imaginative realism.

Readers may also find the following books of interest: Maurice Bassan (ed.), Stephen Crane: A Collection of Critical Essays (1967); Christopher Benfey, The Double Life of Stephen Crane (1992); John Berryman, Stephen Crane (1950); Edwin Cady, Stephen Crane (1953); R. W. Stallman, Stephen Crane: A Biography (1973); and R. M. Weatherford, Stephen Crane: The Critical Heritage (1973).


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