Yesterday we reviewed Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage , but said next to nothing about what the title actually means. Is it a military insignia? An honor bestowed by one’s superiors for valor on the field of battle? Not exactly. Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 9, the one and only place the term is mentioned in the narrative:
“The youth fell back in the procession until the tattered soldier was not in sight. Then he started to walk on with the others.
“But he was amid wounds. The mob of men was bleeding. Because of the tattered soldier's question he now felt that his shame could be viewed. He was continually casting sidelong glances to see if the men were contemplating the letters of guilt he felt burned into his brow.
“At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He conceived persons with torn bodies to be peculiarly happy. He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage.”