The Red Badge of Courage: Chapters 1-3

Contributor: Melissa Kowalski. Lesson ID: 12861

War's a terrible thing-people are slaughtered with little regard for their personhood and treated like statistics. Stephen Crane took up the cause of an individual soldier and reveals his interiority!


Literary Studies

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


The American Civil War was one of the bloodiest and divisive wars in American history. What do you think it must have felt like to fight in the Civil War? Get ready to climb inside a soldier's head!

Why do you think the Civil War re-enactor is smiling in the picture above?

After all, doesn't he know that he's in the middle of a war? In his novel, The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane attempted to go beyond the usual accounts of war — the winners and losers of battles and the casualty reports — to look at the emotions a regular soldier would face while enlisted in the army. This look at at the emotions and thoughts of a character is known in literature as "interiority." The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines interiority as "interior quality or character; inner life or substance; psychological existence."

  • What does this definition mean to you?

Write down your thoughts in a notebook or journal that you will keep with all of your work for this series of Related Lessons on The Red Badge of Courage.

Let's consider the part of the definition that says "psychological existence." This means the psychology, or thoughts, emotions, attitudes, and reactions of the character. In other words, the reader is getting inside the character's "head" when a writer is using interiority. We can see the thoughts of the character and how he or she is mentally reacting to a situation. This is what Crane does in The Red Badge of Courage; the reader gets to know the thoughts and emotions of Henry, an enlisted private in the Union Army.

Before reading, it is important to understand the vocabulary that Crane uses in the novel. In your notebook or journal, define the following terms used in the first three chapters of the novel. After each definition, write a sentence where you use the word correctly in context based on its meaning. Use to look up the definitions for the words below:

  • purled
  • lucid
  • clamored
  • assailed
  • effaced
  • lurid
  • impregnable
  • despondent
  • avail
  • dexterously
  • epithets
  • adherents
  • dinned
  • felicitating
  • aggregations
  • perambulating
  • harangue
  • declamation
  • reconnoitering

When you have finished writing the definitions and sentences, read Chapters One through Three in The Red Badge of Courage. You can read the novel online for free at The Red Badge of Courage: An Episode of the American Civil War by Stephen Crane, by Project Gutenberg, or you can obtain a print copy of the novel at your local library or bookstore.

As you read Chapters One through Three, take notes on the interiority of the main character, Henry. Write down at least five examples of his thoughts and feelings about the Civil War.

When you have finished reading and taking your notes, move on to the Got It? section to explore the details of these three chapters more closely.

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