8 Mai 2021
Stephan Crane (1871-1900)
Qu’est-ce que la lâcheté ? Qu’est-ce que le courage ? Est-ce qu’un acte de bravoure aujourd’hui permet d'effacer une lâcheté d’hier ?
La lâcheté a-t-elle un visage ? Ce visage est-il reconnaissable entre tous les autres ? Qui se sait lâche ? Comment la lâcheté est-elle vécue par le lâche ?
Se sait-on lâche avant même d’avoir céder à la peur ?
Cette nouvelle de cent trente pages de l'auteur américain Stephen Crane "The red badge of courage" représente sans doute un des tous premiers questionnements autour de la lâcheté, de la conscience que celui qu'elle a pris pour cible peut en avoir... et son entourage avec lui.
Et c'est alors que...
En temps de guerre, toute blessure aussi superficielle soit-elle, même accidentelle (même dissociée de tout engagement sur le front, dans l’ignorance de son entourage comme ce fut le cas pour le personnage principale de cette histoire « The youth »), cette blessure demeure indubitablement la marque suprême de la bravoure, du courage ; dans les mots de l’auteur "The red badge (flag ? - ndlr) of courage' :
« The next morning the youth discovered that his tall com- rade had been the fast-flying messenger of a mistake. There was much scoffing at the latter by those who had yesterday been firm adherents of his views, and there was even a little sneering by men who had never believed the rumor. The tall one fought with a man from Chatfield Corners and beat him severely.
The youth felt, however, that his problem was in no wise lifted from him. There was, on the contrary, an irritating pro- longation. The tale had created in him a great concern for himself. Now, with the newborn question in mind, he was compelled to sink back into his old place as part of a blue demonstration.
For days he made ceaseless calculations, but they were all wondrously unsatisfactory. He found that he could establish nothing. He finally concluded that the only way to prove himself was to go into the blaze, and then figuratively to watch his legs to discover their merits and faults. He reluc- tantly admitted that he could not sit still and with a mental slate and pencil derive an answer. To gain it, he must have blaze, blood, and danger, even as a chemist requires this, that, and the other. So he fretted for an opportunity.
Meanwhile he continually tried to measure himself by his comrades. The tall soldier, for one, gave him some assurance. This man’s serene unconcern dealt him a measure of confi- dence, for he had known him since childhood, and from his intimate knowledge he did not see how he could be capable of anything that was beyond him, the youth. Still, he thought that his comrade might be mistaken about himself. Or, on the other hand, he might be a man heretofore doomed to peace and obscurity, but, in reality, made Ito shine in war.
The youth would have liked to have discovered another who suspected himself. A sympathetic comparison of mental notes would have been a joy to him. »
- Chapter II