To a naturalist writer, generally the controlling force of fate is the environment while life is usually the dull round of daily existence. In Stephan Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage,” Henry fights the war right alongside nature. Crane places the reader squarely in the sphere of realism portraying life as it is. Naturalistic views in parts of the novel helped contribute to the overall theme of the Universe’s disregard for human life.
Henry’s realization that the natural world spins on regardless of the manner in which men live and die came to be one of his most difficult lessons. Henry has a keen eye for his surroundings and there are many descriptions of landscapes throughout the novel. Descriptions of scenery emphasize the stark difference between nature and the war. Battles look strange and inappropriate being fought on sunny fields. When the smoke clears, the sky is just as blue and beautiful as before. Nature exists separately from the war, going “tranquilly on with her golden process in the midst of so much devilment.” (506) At first it seems as if this separateness makes nature a tranquil refuge from the war. But as the novel progresses, Henry realizes that nature is merely indifferent to human concerns. Therefore, this anti-transcendental remark shows that even with so much disaster happening, nature will be indifferent and continue to through its natural process. After Henry fleas from battle, he stumbles upon a corpse lying against a tree in the woods. The corpse is decaying and “over the gray skin of the face ran little ants” (“Red.. 513) and at a crucial moment because Henry just fled from the battle. As Henry views the corpse still with nature, the ants are continuing without the corpse. Henry thus realizes the insignificance of mortal concerns. As the war rages on around him, Henry continues to occupy his mind with questions concerning the nature of courage and honor and the possibilities of gaining glory. Death, he assumes, would ultimately...
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