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Free Barron's Booknotes Summary-The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
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Henry's regeneration is brought about by the death of Jim Conklin... but there are unmistakable hints... that he is intended to represent Jesus Christ.... Crane intended to suggest here the sacrificial death celebrated in communion... the wafer signifies the sacramental blood and body of Christ, and the process of his spiritual rebirth begins at this moment when the wafer-like sun appears in the sky. It is a symbol of salvation through death.

Robert Stallman, "Introduction" to The Red Badge of Courage, 1951

If we were to seek a geometrical shape to picture the significant form of The Red Badge, it would not be the circle, the L, or the straight line of oscillation between selfishness and salvation, but the equilateral triangle. Its three points are instinct, ideals, and circumstance. Henry Fleming runs along the sides like a squirrel in a track. Ideals take him along one side until circumstance confronts him with danger. Then instinct takes over and he dashes down the third side in a panic. The panic abates somewhat as he approaches the angle of ideals, and as he turns the corner (continuing his flight) he busily rationalizes to accommodate those ideals.... Then he runs on to the line of circumstance, and he moves again toward
instinct. He is always controlled on one line, along which he is both drawn and impelled by the two other forces.

Charles C. Walcutt, American Literary Naturalism: A Divided Stream, 1956

Thus The Red Badge of Courage, which is something of a tour de force as a novel and which is chiefly noted for the advance it marks in the onset of realism on the American literary scene, is transmongrified into a religious allegory.... Observe, too, that the evidence for this thesis is drawn, not from a study of the narrative progression of Crane's novel as a whole, but from a single image and the amalgam of the initials of the tall soldier's name with the name of Jesus Christ....

Philip Rahv, "Fiction and the Criticism of Fiction," 1956

Crane's magnum opus shows up the nature and value of courage. The heroic ideal is not what it has been claimed to be: so largely is it the product of instinctive responses to biological and traditional forces. But man does have will, and he has the ability to reflect, and though these do not guarantee that he can effect his own destiny, they do enable him to become responsible to some degree for the honesty of his personal vision.

Stanley B. Greenfield, "The Unmistakable Stephen Crane," 1958


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