The Red Badge of Courage Theme Analysis

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November 2011
English II H

The Red Badge of Courage Theme Analysis Essay
“He suddenly lost concern for himself, and forgot to look at a menacing fate. He became not a man but a member. He felt that something of which he was a part-- a regiment, an army, a cause, or a country—was in a crisis,” explains the theme of maturation of Henry in the novel, The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, from an ignorant adolescent to his acknowledging that the war is not solely about him. In the course of the novel, Henry matures from a boy having a romantic view of the war and running from it, then finally to a young man understanding what it means to be a true soldier.

To begin with, a young soldier named Henry is introduced as the novel begins to “pan out.” Henry envisions his being a part of the war as a way to “get” women, become a hero, and be loved by everyone. Henry believes that any girl would throw herself at him for his being a strong “soldier-man.” Henry also thinks that once he became a war hero, all the girls would throw themselves at him as well. Henry’s romantic ideas about the war last for the first third of the book. He always thinks of the girls and how proud they would be of him since he is in the army. In the eyes of young Henry, the war is not a place of utter violence, but it is a place that guarantees his future life with a woman.

Next, after Henry makes it to the actual war, where he has to fight, he runs away. He becomes a scared little kid who cannot face the cold harsh world of the 1860s, which was war. Henry had put himself into a predicament, a war, in which he could not just leave without being punished. Once Henry decides to run, he encounters several people. He encounters the tattered soldier, Jim, and the soldier in the thicket. The tattered soldier teaches him that he cannot hide his secret of running away from the war forever. This lesson does not have a long lasting impression on Henry because he concocts a crazy...
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