The Red Badge of Courage is a fictional story of a young soldier named Henry Fleming, who finds himself by overcoming his inner fears in a series of events during the Civil War. Henry is an average farm boy from New York, who dreams of being a true war hero. He has enlisted in the 304th New York regiment, which fights for the Unionist forces. The rising action for this novel is of Henry trying to overcome his struggle with courage. This changes when a dear friend, Jim, dies right before his eyes. He obtains a “red badge of courage” by accident when another soldier strikes him in the head with his rifle. Henry gains the confidence to return to his regiment and redeem himself. He develops a close relationship with the loud soldier, Wilson, and they, together, thrive as true war heroes.
The book has 10 chapters in which organized by each event to give the perspective of the young soldier, Henry Fleming, during that point in time. The book contains flashbacks when Henry sits in his tent thinking about what his mother told him, and if his purpose in life was really to be a soldier or not. He also has flashbacks when he remembers his failures during the war.
• The themes in The Red Badge of Courage are courage, duty, respect, warfare, and isolation. • Courage- Courage is demonstrated by the soldiers in the novel. It is unnatural for someone to risk their life for others, and it takes a lot of courage to do so. Henry Fleming displays courage because he has an inner fear of not being able to be a true hero. He is afraid of his reactions to the battles during that point in time. He feels that he cannot be a real man without first proving his valor. Finally, Henry overcomes his fear, and fights with the confidence that he has never felt before. • Duty- The young, Civil War soldier, Henry Fleming, struggles between his duty to himself and the duty to his cause. The duty to himself is the need to stay safe and alive and the duty to his cause is fighting in the war. • Respect/ Reputation- The soldiers learn how to respect orders and develop a brotherly relationship with one another in the novel. This helps them to work together to do their duties for themselves, and their country. They had their defeats, but at the end of the day, they were brothers and would have to respect each other. Henry Fleming felt that he could not be respected unless he proved himself to be a true hero. He worries about his reputation when he ran away from the war in panic. He was afraid that the other soldier would lose respect for him and think of him as a coward. • Warfare- Stephen Crane shows the perspective of war in a soldier’s eyes. Through the harsh battles, injuries, deaths, and fears, he creates pictures to the reader of how war is really like. • Isolation- Henry Fleming often isolated himself from his regiment intentionally, and sometimes unintentionally. He did this to sort out his concerns and cope with his inner fears of himself in the battle. However, at one point, his fears got the best of him and took control when he fleed from the battle and ran away in panic. • Nature- In The Red Badge of Courage, nature—the sun, the moon, the stars, the entire universe—carries on with its business regardless of what was happening in the war. Henry noticed the beautiful blue skies during the day, the beautiful trees that swayed in the wind, the bright full moon, and the golden rays of light that would shine down on the river, while the ugliest things were happening (death, gun shots, smoke, and fire). Man cannot manipulate nature, and Henry couldn’t control it in any way. • Main Characters: Henry Fleming, Jim Conklin, and Wilson. • Henry Fleming- The novel’s protagonist. He is a young soldier who fights in the 304th regiment New York regiment in the Civil War. At first, Henry stands untested in battle and questions his own courage. As the novel progresses, he encounters the truths about the experience of...
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