Red Badge of Courage and Thoughts

February 2, 2011 at 5:50 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , )

As a kid, I remember being completely infatuated with Red Badge of Courage.  But there was a time around the ages of nine and ten when anything to do with the Civil War was fascinating.  About the same time when teachers brain wash you with the “history” that all things Union were good and righteous (the way Fanny Price and Jane Eyre are good and righteous), and all things Confederate are sinful and misguided, a nuisance the Union had to deal with like Ramona the Pest before she learns her lesson, leaving out all the important political stuff regarding state’s rights.

Now, as an adult re-reading this elementary school favorite by Stephen Crane, I find my childhood obsessions a bit morbid and unfamiliar.  The only thing I feel inclined to get excited about is the memory of the excitement over the names of two characters: Rogers and Fleming.  My maiden name is Rogers and my real live Hilary Whitney Beaches-like pen pal’s last name is Fleming.  (I only dub her as Hilary because between the two of us I’m the only one loud enough to compete with Bette Midler.)

Looking back, it must have been the tomboy in me, appreciating lines like: “When in a dream, it occurred to the youth that his rifle was an impotent stick, he lost sense of everything but his hate, his desire to smash into pulp the glittering smile of victory which he could feel upon the faces of his enemies.” (Chp. 17)  Because admit it, that’s a sentence worthy of Twain’s Huck Finn – and all little boys want to be Huck Finn, and all little tomboys want to marry him (as Tom Sawyer’s love is reserved for the girls in ruffled dresses).

In short, not until this book have I been so sure in my decision to have Ayla keep reading review journals from the second she can read and write sentences.  I long to know what my specific thoughts were on this book, as I can’t recapture more than a vague idea of having loved it.  What was my ten year old self thinking?  It’s a good, well written book of irony, but nowhere do I truly see the appeal to a third to fourth grade girl since the majority of the book features a lot of running around and “men, punched by bullets, fall[ing] in grotesque agonies.”  (Chp. 19)

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