The Red Badge of Courage

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Wartime can bring one both physical conflicts on the battlefield, as well as psychological battles in one’s own mind. Stephen Cranes The Red Badge of Courage takes the reader into the life of Henry Fleming, a young new recruit during the Civil War. Crane studies not only the physical toll war is taking in Henry, but the emotional toll as well. Major concepts in this story of Henry’s journey are him being forced to mature in a short amount of time, self preservation, feelings of isolation, and being courageous. The reader is given an inside look at the costs of warfare. I.Maturity

A.Henry “the youth”
B.Homesickness
C.War epiphany

II.Self Preservation
A.Running Away
B.Personification of gunshots
C.Regret

III.Isolation
A.Young and inexperienced
B.Comfort in nature
C.“Red Badge of Courage”
IV.Bravery
A.Becomes a hero
B.Flag Bearer
C.Has Epiphany

This war novel, The Red Badge of Courage, is about the growth of a young man, Henry Fleming, in the civil war; his physical and psychological growth. As a young and inexperienced enlister, it did not take long for Henry to realize the true horrors of war. The author, Stephen Crane, provides an intense realism in his story. He undergoes a complete transformation throughout the book. What happens to most people in a lifetime happens to Henry Fleming over the course of a few weeks. Major concepts that Crane uses in this novel to show Henry’s transformation was maturity, self preservation, isolation, and bravery.

Maturing is a natural part of the human experience; when a person develops understanding, responsibility, and wisdom. This is a the central theme in the Stephen Cranes war novel The Red Badge of Courage, all major concepts in this book can be connected back to maturity. Young and naïve, Henry enlists in the war with an ignorant view of what war is really like. He is blind to the truth of war, he only knows of what he has read about in books and has learned at school. The constant psychological debate in this novel begins very early on; Henry is constantly second guessing himself and has overwhelming emotional conflicts. His age and inexperience is a very important part of Henry’s development in the story. He views war as a magnificent event and hopes to use it to make his transition from boy to man in a glorious triumph.

Stephen Crane develops Henry as a young and naïve boy, instead of a man, by having the narrator consistently refer to him as “the youth”. This is what Crane is labeling Henry as in almost every single chapter. For example “After this crossing, the youth assured himself that at any moment, they might be suddenly assaulted from the caves of the towering woods” (Crane 19). Calling Henry “the youth” is Stephen Crane’s way of showing the characters immaturity and inexperience. Henry is beginning to experience what the true aspects of the terrifying world of war are. He had started off a self-absorbed teenager who wanted nothing more than to show off be seen as this amazing war hero, but now Henry is facing the true horrors of war.

Early on in the novel, when Henry is beginning to experience his turmoil, he remembers how he felt when he first left for the war, From his home he had gone to the seminary to bid adieu to his many schoolmates. They had thronged about him with wonder and admiration. He had felt the gulf now between them and had swelled with calm and pride. 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. They had strutted (Crane 34) Homesickness is starting set in for Henry. He glowed with pride when first joining the army; it did not take very long for that pride to diminish. Henry entered the war under the delusions that he would become a legendary war hero and experience a life changing epiphany. He cowardly runs away from his first battle and tries to defend his decision by saying it was justified if the...
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