Red Badge of Courage; from Coward to Brave

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From Coward to Courageous
What defines a soldier? Do we define him by the way he runs through the battlefield, crushing his opponent, or how he finds himself leading the charge against a great, war machine? Does a hero redeem the hope of his regiment and keep fighting until his death? In Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage we see Henry Fleming, the protagonist of the novel, make himself into a soldier. In the first few pages, Crane portrays Fleming as a naïve young man wanting to go into battle solely for recognition. However, as the novel progresses we notice Fleming change from that naïve, cowardly, young man into a courageous soldier.

At first, Fleming does not understand what war can do to him. Fleming enjoys a sense of pride for joining the Confederate Army, blind to the true horrors of war.. “… They had thronged about him with wonder and admiration. He had felt the gulf now between them and had swelled with calm pride.” (9) Fleming only focuses on others acknowledging his so-called bravery even though he feels unsure if he can withstand a single battle. As Fleming fights in his first battle, his pride dissipates and turns into fear. “He ran like a blind man. Two or three times he fell down.” (44) Fleming morphs from a man who fills himself with self-importance to one who deflates with cowardice.

As the novel progresses, Fleming changes from a man who flees from battles, to one who remains until the enemy retreats. “Once he, in his intent hate, was almost alone and was firing, when all those near him had ceased. He was so engrossed in his occupation that he was not aware of a lull.” (100) Fleming no longer cowers in battle, but fights when all others cease. Fleming does not let his fear overpower him, but instead channels that fear into the battle. No longer does Fleming fear the enemy but the enemy may in fact fear him.

Lastly, we see Fleming transform from a cog in the military machine into the leader of his regiment’s charge. Fleming puts...
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