The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane tells the story of the American Civil War through the eyes of a Union Army soldier, Henry Fleming. After running away from a battle, Fleming realizes that he must overcome his fear and earn his place next to his comrades by becoming brave and courageous. And so he rejoins his regiment, and, to his delight, none of his fellow soldiers has realized that he ran away, and they mistakenly think that his accidental wound is actually a bullet wound.
Henry experiences his first real battle as a flag bearer and is proud for not losing his courage. However, the commanding officer believes Fleming's regiment is disposable and orders them to charge the enemy despite overwhelming odds. With no weapon at all, Fleming leads the charge and faces an onslaught of bullets where nearly everyone who fights alongside of him is killed.
The book ends with a beautiful description of Henry's feelings and emotions as he runs toward his fate. Stephen Crane's novel is one of the most famous realistic historical fiction books ever written. Although the main character is not based on any real soldier from the war, Crane's novel speaks for the overall attitude of the teenage boy soldiers who were forced to become men before their time.
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