Stephen Crane uses color imagery and color symbols in The
Red Badge of Courage. Green represents youth, red is a symbol of Henry Fleming's mental visions of battle, and gray is used as a symbol for death. The colors are subtle representations of emotion, character, and one's perception of events.
"As the landscape changed from brown to green, the army
awakened, and began to tremble with eagerness at the noise of rumors" (Crane 368). Like children, t he young soldiers circulate rumor within the regiment (Rice). Later Crane writes "he was aware that these battalions with their commotions were woven red and startling into the gentle fabric of the s oftened greens and browns. It looked to be the wrong place for a battlefield" (Crane 377). Green r epresents the youthfulness of the battalions, and red is an image of battle (Rice).
Red is used mos
t often in The Red Badge of Courage. Crane writes of "...the red eye-like gleam of hostile campfire s set in the low brow of distant hills," (Crane 368). In Henry's mind, the campfires represent the eyes of the enemy. Crane then continues with the metaphor in later chapters. He writes, "©he concei ved them to be growing larger, as the orbs of a row of dragons advancing." (Crane **) "The red of t he campfires comes to represent the eyes of the enemy, of dragons. The monstrous dragons are indeed , the opposing army." (Rice)
All forms of war are red to Henry. "...war, the red animal - war, the blood-swollen god." (Crane 378) This animal of war "rules over and feasts on battles." (Rice). He nry characterizes the battles as a "crimson roar". The screams and the gunfire are red to him. The red world of war is comparative to the red world of Hell. A prisoner curses his captors to the "re d regions". "Whether or not he intends for them to go to the red regions of Hell is irrelevant; the y are already in some kind of Hell." (Rice)
Anger is also shown through the color red. At the end
of the book, Henry feels odium towards himself and lets out "an outburst of crimson oaths" (Crane ** ). These oaths could be promises regarding his courage in battle or they could be words spoken in f ury. Earlier, Henry is in a "red rage" (Crane 382) that "demonstrates the violent passion of this soldier's desire to fight." (Rice)
By the end of the book, Henry had "rid himself of the red sickne ss of battle" (Crane 423). Red here represents not anger, but fear. Henry finds his courage not th rough a wound but by overcoming his fear of "the red animal, war" and being able to face death. It was the red sickness that previously kept him from his red badge of courage. (Rice)
Henry craved "a
wound, a red badge of courage" (Crane 390). He idealized the veterans as having "red, live bones s ticking out through the slits in faded uniforms" (Crane **). A man with a red badge of courage is a survivor. A dead man is never described as red, but as gray.
"The text acknowledges that death is
in no way courageous. While the blood of injury and battle are red, all imagery of death is a life less gray" (Rice). Crane is as thorough in his connection between death and gray as he was with the red connection. "Gray is not only the uniform color of the opposition, but also the color of many omens of death, and of each dead or deathly person Fleming encounters" (Rice). "[Henry] perceived w ith dim amazement that their uniforms were rather gay in effect, being a light gray" (Crane 414). G ray quickly loses its gaiety, possibly reflecting Henry's lack of fear of death. Crane also writes of the "long, gray walls of vapor where lay the battle lines" (Crane **). These are the battle line s that will end up killing Jim Conklin, the tall soldier (Rice).
Deaths are foreshadowed by a "gray
dawn" (Crane 376) and by the "gray mists [that] were slowly shifting before the first efforts of th e sun rays©it dressed the skin of...