Set during the Civil War, The Red Badge of Courage follows the journey of Henry Fleming through a number of trials, including battle, fear and the death of his fellow comrade over a mere three days. But do all these transform him into the larger-than- life war hero he always dreamt of or a coward who fled at the sound of an enemy bullet? In the first chapter of Stephen Crane’s novel, Henry originally believes that to be a hero all one needed was uniform. “He and some of his fellows who had donned blue were quite overwhelmed with privileges for all of one afternoon, and it had been a very delicious thing.”
Henry is convinced that an impressive performance in blue attire will immortalize him as a hero among men. He does not consider earning or proving himself worthy of public recognition nearly as important as the recognition itself. So long as he is met by smiling girls and appreciative men, he is content to think of himself as a hero. He is oblivious of the blood, sweat and tears that accompany that recognition.
“ In the darkness he saw visions of a thousand-tongued fear that would babble at his back and cause him to flee… He admitted that he would not be able to cope with this monster.”
In this quote, you can notice how child-like and exaggerated Henry Fleming’s perception of danger or death is as he compares it to that of a petrifying monster. In the novel, Crane rarely calls the characters by their name but rather by the characteristics that distinguish them from others or by their title. Stephen Crane could be referring to the dangers and perils that come with being at war as the “monster”. This meant that at this time Henry, camped out in the forest had finally faced the fact that the honor and glory he sought could easily be stopped by one enemy bullet.
Suffering and pain play major roles in the...