What Is the Overall Mood or Atmosphere of "The Red Badge of Courage"?

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"The Red Badge of Courage" is a war novel that was written by Stephen Crane and published in 1895. The protagonist, Henry Fleming, is a young soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War. He fears for his life and runs from battle, but he immediately feels guilty about his cowardly behavior. Fleming hopes he will get a war injury -- a red badge of courage -- so his fellow soldiers won't discover that he fled from battle. Even though the book contains graphic war scenes, the story follows Fleming's internal conflicts as he tries to hide and make up for his cowardice.

1 Dreary, Tense and Morose

The mood is distressing and somber, and the atmosphere feels restless and apprehensive. Even though "The Red Badge of Courage" takes place during the Civil War, Crane doesn't establish a sad or extremely violent mood. The mood instead supports Fleming's internal frustration and confusion as he tries to make sense of the war-torn world around him and reconcile his fear-induced behavior. Readers sympathize with Fleming, seeing him as a young, immature, inexperienced soldier who's thrown into a difficult situation. The serious mood helps readers understand why Fleming has such a great desire to preserve his dignity.

As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.