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The theme of manhood in "The Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane.

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The theme of manhood in "The Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane.

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The Red Badge of Courage

AP English Per. 1st

Manhood is hard to describe and even harder to achieve. In Stephen Crane's book the theme of not only manhood, but also maturity is spread throughout the novel. The story's protagonist Henry Fleming becomes a man through the course of the book. Two other characters have great influence on the theme of manhood; they are examples to Henry while he fights his battles with the confederates as well as himself.

The first instrumental man is a fellow solider named Jim Conklin. He is injured in their first engagement with the Confederates. He soon dies from his battle wounds, or his red badge's of courage. Jim shows courage and maturity by fighting and dying for the purpose he believes in. Conklin doesn't verbally teach Henry much, but he is a great symbol of true manhood to Henry. In the earlier parts of the book Henry is a scared little boy who hasn't grown into his body yet. He's developed enough physically to handle war but his mind is still childish. When Henry witnesses Jim's last few moments he has a realization of life and death. But, at the time, Henry tucks his tail between his legs and fakes an injury to get away from the front line. He sees Jim die and it scares him. Conklin is a symbol of the harsh side of manhood. With Jim dead it makes Henry realize he could be next. Henry's thoughts of war being all glory and honor change to those of death. Later on in the book the reader sees Jim-like characteristics in Henry. When Henry first starts fighting, he thinks manhood is gained through participating in war, becoming the 'he-man'. Near the end of the book Henry's vision of manhood changes from adolescent fantasy to an understanding that manhood lies more in the complex ways in which one negotiates one's mistakes and responsibilities than in one's conduct on the battlefield. He learns this partly by Jim's example.

Wilson is another great symbol of manhood in this book. Wilson, who begins the novel as an...