Psychology of Men at War
THESIS STATEMENT: The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane exhibits how the desensitizing, dehumanizing, and depressing experience of war is more so mentally harmful, than it is physically harmful.
War is seen as the universal sign of manhood.
War is seen as a rite of passage into manhood for boys.
Henry went as far as pretending to be shot just to make the other soldiers think of him as brave.
War will change a person's attitude, feelings, and outlook on life.
Henry becomes desensitized because of the things he sees on the battlefield.
Henry grows to be indifferent to life or death.
Most of the conflict in war is fought against the soldier's own mind.
Henry ran from battle because he was afraid.
Henry uses Jim as a model of how he wants to be, and runs in to problems while trying to achieve what he sees to be a perfect soldier.
Conclusion: Through the common thought of boys becoming men on the battlefield, Henry's changes of heart, and the psychological struggle that every soldier goes through at times of war, Stephen Crane is able to accurately portray
the psychological harm that war does to a man.
In The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane exhibits his understanding of human psychology during times of war. His understanding encompasses, and takes into account, all factors of human emotion, such as age, maturity, and background of the individual, just to name a few. Over the course of Henry's experience of battle, he undergoes countless psychological changes. The first thing to change about him is his opinion of the "glory" and "honor" that war brings. Henry's next change comes in the form of the enemy. His enemy, contrary to what one might think, is his own mind. The final change that Henry goes through is one that he will have to endure for the rest of his life. This life-long change is simply the drastic change of heart in regards to life in general. In taking all of these factors into account, Stephen Crane is able to accurately portray how the desensitizing, dehumanizing, and depressing experience of war is more so mentally harmful, than it is physically harmful.
There is no test of a man's courage that is greater than the challenge of battle. To participate in a war, let alone survive it, one needs nerves of steel, complete focus, and most importantly, complete calmness and control. Finding this complete self control is seen as a sign of being tough physically and emotionally, which is also associated with being a man. This is what Henry, and all young boys, dream of as a child. This is what Henry is searching for in going off to war. He had burned several times to enlist. Tales of great movements shook the land. They might not be distinctly Homeric, but there seemed to be much glory in them. He had read of marches, sieges, conflicts, and he had longed to see it all. His busy mind had drawn from him large pictures extravagant in color, lurid with breathless deeds.₁
Henry is still a young man when he leaves his home to fight for his country. He is like every youth off to war; eager to see what has broken and killed countless men, accepting the challenge to be victorious over the physical and mental hurdles, and to do this by surviving. Everyone in his community feels proud because they all feel the same sense of pride that they had done something good in producing a strong and motivated young soldier. With the farewell he was given, one would think him to be a war hero.
When a boy leaves his home, off to war, he will return a man. This idea is widely accepted in our society, and Crane shows how he agrees with this idea. In the beginning of the novel, Crane refers to Henry as simply "the young soldier". “Henry Fleming, as eventually we come to know the Young Soldier, moves ironically from a dangerous self doubt to what may be an even more dangerous dignity.”₂ Crane does this only...
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