Red Badge of Courage

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To Be or Not to Be… A Man
The Red Badge of Courage written by Stephen Crane is a prime example of bildungsroman, or a coming of age story. Crane begins with a cowardly boy, Henry Fleming, and ends with an experienced war hero who has learned not just what war really is, but who he really is. Mark Twain once said, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” [Epigraph] Although he struggles to learn that being a soldier means more than just showing up at battle, Henry uses the influences of the attitudes, events, and his own inner thoughts to complete his metamorphosis psychologically and morally. He also learns that he may have to sacrifice himself at some point to save another. Crane uses these ideas to develop the theme of how war initiates manhood.

When Henry first informs his mother that he wants to enlist in the army, her only advice is to “not be a fool.” (Crane 10). This provides evidence that even Henry’s mother believes he is not yet fit to go out on his own and fight as a grown man. His mother expresses this feeling again when she knits him socks and puts “his best shirts” in his suitcase. This action symbolizes that Henry still needs someone to look after and protect him, for now, but it also foreshadows that Henry will grow as a person while he is at war and will eventually be able to take care of himself. This is proved when he expresses that he thought of battles as “tales of great movements that shook the land” which is only a fantasy, not what war experiences truly are (Crane 16). Crane includes these details to show readers how Henry is still a naïve young boy with plenty of room to develop as a character, which keeps readers enticed in the story because they want to see him mature and find out what he is capable of. Finding out what he could actually accomplish took time for Henry, which many can relate to and understand, an advantage for Crane as a writer to connect...
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