Red Badge of Courage Research Paper

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Growing up during the naturalism and realism literary movements, and experiencing combat in Cuba and Greece first hand influenced Stephen Crane's outlook in his novel The Red Badge of Courage that no matter what it takes, all living things will do whatever they can to save themselves, and that the world continues to spin regardless of human existence.

The literary movements that influenced his writing the most were naturalism and realism. Naturalism uses detailed realism to suggest that social conditions, heredity, and environment have an inescapable force in shaping human nature. Crane uses this several times in The Red Badge of Courage. After Henry runs away from battle and is in the midst of rationalizing his behavior, he comes across a particularly tranquil spot in the woods: “At length he reached a place where the high, arching boughs made a chapel. He softly pushed the green doors aside and entered. Pine needles were a gentle brown carpet. There was a religious half-light” (7.18). He notices "A dead man [with] eyes […] changed to the dull hue to be seen on the side of a dead fish" (7.20). This is where Henry comes to realize that nature and the universe have no interest in this dead man, nor do they have an interest in whether Henry himself lives or dies. There is simply nothing out there to help or save him or anyone else. This is a shocking lesson for him, and one that shatters his notions of the way things work. This is also Crane’s way of introducing the philosophy of "Naturalism" into the novel. Naturalists were influenced by Darwin’s theory of evolution, which places a strong emphasis on evolution. Literary Naturalists reject the notion of free will and see humans as controlled primarily by instinct, emotion, and culture. This idea makes Henry’s behavior more random and explainable, rather than a growth toward maturity, or a rise toward heroism, through his exertion of free choice and decision. As he is faced with even more death, he finds that the termination of life is an inevitable part of life: "He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death" (24.31). Henry realizes that no matter the amount of bravery or courage, the world has created the same fate for all those who live, they all must die. Crane implies this through images of nature’s beauty contrasted with man’s bloody brutality, and he exploits this paradox many times throughout the novel. Since Crane was a big believer in Naturalism, he wanted to show that death should not be romanticized, but should be looked at straight on in as dispassionate and scientific a way as possible. The vulnerabilities of dead men make death seem like a very real physical phenomenon, rather than the journey of one’s spirit to either heaven or hell. Henry, too, is affected by viewing the dead. He sees that the dead do not know more than he does, and that they do not experience anything paranormal. He also realizes that he could just as easily be among them -- that dying is as random and meaningless as war, or anything else.

The second literary movement that influenced Crane’s writing is realism. Realism is a term that can refer to any work that aims at honest portrayal over sensationalism, exaggeration, or melodrama. The Red Badge of Courage displays characteristics of Realism writing. Henry is a regular guy put into an extraordinary situation. Crane uses figurative language in the forms of imagery and dialect. Another realism trait in The Red Badge of Courage is that nature is viewed as protection and a hindrance for Henry in several different cases throughout the story. For example, Crane writes, “……….

Another important event in Crane's lifetime that influenced him in writing The Red Badge of Courage is his firsthand experience when he entered combat in Cuba and Greece. Though he didn't actually enter combat until after his novel was written, his thirst to not just see a battle, but die in one, influenced his writing...
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