The Red Badge of Courage - Stephen Crane My last status update on this book may have confused a great deal of those following along with me. The four-out-of-five star rating was probably even more of a shocker for those of you watching me rant and rave, practically frothing and foaming at the mouth with madness as I slung curses like weapons--desiring and willing to accept nothing short of our main character's, Henry's, death and destruction. There is validity in this! Since we first meet Henry, this kid who wants to become a soldier for the glory's sake along with every other wrong reason you can contrive, I didn't like him. He was a self-serving, fame-seeking kid (again, I emphasize) who didn't give a rip about his mother's concern for his safety, and only the admiration of absolutely everyone around him. He goes behind her back, joins the army, and is disappointed when a "poetic" and beautifully scripted farewell scene isn't given the chance to play out because his mom is too busy lecturing him about the various dangers and giving him advice on how to SURVIVE before he goes! Yeesh what a prick!

But oh no, that's not the reason I hate him. No, that comes almost instantly afterwards and for the next SEVENTY PAGES. Considering the book is about 100pgs long? That means he spends more than half the time being a complete JACKWAGON. D8< *Mild loss of temper* But how do I mean this? What do I base it off of? Well, perhaps that he thinks poorly of everyone around him, calling them far more stupid and saying he's the more superior and perceptive, when all the little brat has done is this: nothing. NOTHING!!! He RAN AWAY when the fighting got tough! He got injured because he was holding onto a retreating soldier, babbling like an idiot, and then got whacked in the head with the butt of his rifle! Then he has the AUDACITY to walk into camp and say he was SHOT in the HEAD. And he LIVES IT UP too! Taking advantage of the guy treating him! But hey, before he gets THAT "battle scar" he's complaining about how his body aches and how hungry he is and how his feet hurt. You little inconsiderate! There are men DEAD everywhere AROUND YOU. And others who are ALIVE and SUFFERING. And you have the GALL to tell me that you can barely STAND?! What type of nonsense is this!?!?!?!

And it goes ON, as I said, for the next TWO THIRDS of the book! GAH! I wanted to smack him and strangle him and MORE. At every--single--TURN he's doing something new that makes me want to throttle the living daylights out of him!!! And man, does he pull some incredible stunts of asininity. -__- Seriously, how far up your own butt do you have to be to think that highly of yourself? What a prick!!!

So why, you ask, did I give this book a four out of five? Well, because around the late 60 to early 70 page mark, I made an update saying that for once... Henry was acting the part of a man. There was a large gap after that one status update, where I had no further comments until I reached the end of the book. It was in those last thirty or so pages that something unexpected happened--what I had hoped would happen throughout most of the story: Henry became a man. There was no more of his philosophy, no more comparing himself to the other men around him. It was just a burning desire to enact what he had to; to get the task at hand done, and to do it with every fiber of his being. When he stopped thinking about himself, about some falsely claimed or obtained glory, and just did what needed to be done... when he didn't realize he was throwing himself right past the front lines, fully capable of being shot and killed at any moment... when he had no hesitance to run forth right into the bullets and try to claim the victory...! Those are the moments where he changed. Where, suddenly, he wasn't the little boy anxious for poetic depictions of battle and glory and praise. He was the man, throwing himself out there, regardless of the circumstances or the possible danger, the horrible outcomes, and growing up through those actions.

What's more that finally settled my mind about this? ...he admitted how ashamed he was. And... that he hated the thoughts of himself, when he looked back on how he had been when he first started out. Is there a fine line that's being trod here? Is the change too abrupt? ...perhaps, perhaps not.

Either way... it was stunning to see, and it... surprised me in a good way. It took me aback and... it made me realize that he did change. Those actions--they spoke louder than any words he ever uttered. And he uttered less and less of them the more he grew towards the end. I feel that, if only because of the ending, it was worthwhile. Boys go into wars and come out men. And... perhaps this is one of the best examples of that transformation, and how suddenly, how amazingly... it happens, without us even knowing it.

It's a truly amazing book in a way. I would definitely recommend it to be read. It was enjoyable, even if for the greatest part of it, I was a lunatic desiring our main character's death. *Chuckles* But hey... people change. And that's what is so fascinating and interesting about this book. That this kid who I thought for certain was going to be a stupid prick to the very end... ended up changing like that. Definitely read it, at some point or another. If you don't want to risk it, then take it out of a library or get it secondhand, but at the very least, it's a book that's worth a shot.