So, you know how sometimes you read a book when you’re young and you don’t really appreciate it and then you read it again when you’re older because you need a book to read for your New Years Resolution, which was to read one book a week for a year, and then you completely fall in love with that book? Yeah, I bet you know all about that. And that exact thing happened to me last week when I read The Red Badge Of Courage by Stephen Crane.
I don’t remember what grade I had to read The Red Badge of Courage in, but I remember that I read it quickly and then retained enough information to get an A on the test, and then moved on to whatever assignment was next without giving it another thought. Last week, I was trying to decide what to read when my eyes fell on my copy The Red Badge of Courage and I immediately knew I needed to read it again, and this time, give this classic its due. So I did. Because I’m decisive like that.
Guess what? I loved it. It was so frankly and powerfully written. When I first read it, I don’t remember having a strong emotional connection to it, but this time….wowza. It made me tear up more than once. Which is interesting because it’s not written in a particularly emotional way. I mean, especially considering that so much of this book is abut what Henry felt, not just what happened, but how it made him feel, you would think it would be full of emotional bombast but it isn’t. This is one of those things were the lack of sentimentality actually made the book more emotional. Go figure. One part in particular really broke my heart. It’s the part when Henry is saying goodbye to his Mother as he is heading off to war and he is expecting a grandiose scene. What he gets is so much simpler. His mother says “You watch out, Henry, an’ take good care of yerself in this here fighting business- you watch out, an’ take good care of yerself. Don’t go a-thinkin’ you can lick the whole rebel army at the start, because yeh can’t….I’ve knet you eight pairs of socks, Henry, and I’ve put in all yer best shirts because I want my boy to be jest as warm and and comf’able as anybody in the army.” And then she tells him to choose his company wisely and that’s it. Henry is disappointed by her speech but I had tears streaming down my face. I thought her speech was so poignant and beautiful and when, as Henry is walking away, he turns around and his Mother is on her knees praying and crying, I totally lose it for like 2 minutes. Well played Mr. Crane. Well played.
I also completely lose it when Henry’s good friend Jim Conklin dies- and dies so bravely. Seriously, y’all, I haven’t had a book make me cry this much in a long time. It was very unexpected. I became so invested in Henry and read the book just as fast as I did the first time, except this time, I was reading it quickly because I was so into it, not just trying to get through it. I can’t stress enough how well written this book is- it takes an excellent writer to create a main character who can be just as likable when he is fleeing a battle as he is when he is fighting in it bravely. One of the things I liked the best about this book is that is was devoid of any politics. It wasn’t about the Civil War- it was about the men who had to fight it and what they might have been feeling. I liked that. A lot.
Read this book. Even if you already read it in school, read it again. I’m so glad I did.
What are you guys reading this week?