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. Literary Analysis: 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 nless 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 war. Henry learns from his past experience when he ran from battle as a frightened boy, and soon after thrives as a man who becomes a true war hero.
He deals with a conflict within himself, and overcomes his fear in battle. • Jim Conklin- He is also referred to as the “tall soldier. ” When Henry asks Jim if he would flee from battle, Jim’s answer—that he would run if other soldiers ran, fight if they fought—establishes him as a pragmatist. Jim is a strong self-reliant man who has little patience for loud, criticizing men like Wilson. He is calm and practical about the war. Jim does his duty as a soldier and serves a strong purpose in the novel. His death helps Henry to redeem himself and gain the confidence to overcome his fear in battle.
Henry wanted that same “red badge of courage” that Jim had. • Wilson- Wilson undergoes a dramatic change throughout the novel. For the first half of the book, Wilson is referred to as the “loud soldier” who is overly confident with himself in the war. When he gives Henry an envelope to give to his family, he shows that he is weak and vulnerable, just as Henry is. He lost the confidence and knew that he was just like every other soldier in the war. He showed that he was nothing more than a youth desperately trying to assure himself of his manhood. Setting: The setting does not serve a strong purpose in the novel. The places that the story took place would be the forest, when Henry found his way back to his regiment, the camp, where the soldiers ate, slept, and strategized for the next battle, and the fields, where they fought for their country. • Literary devices (i. e. : symbolism, imagery, allusions) • “The landscape gave him assurance… it was the religion of peace. ”
This is an example of imagery as Crane describes the area around the battlefield. • “There was a silence safe for the chanting chorus of the trees. This is another example of imagery. Crane describes the atmosphere between shots on the battlefield. • The color red symbolized blood, danger, and things that may seem to be scary. “They were going to look at war, the red animal –war, the blood-swollen god” and “He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage” are some examples of this. • The title “Red Badge of Courage” symbolizes a wound that is received in fighting for one’s country. • Writing Style: Crane’s style was short and simple. His sentences were not very long or difficult to comprehend.
He doesn’t use as much figurative language as does some other authors. His style is unique and shows his individuality. For example, he is grammatically incorrect several times throughout the novel on purpose. “Doubts and he were struggling” is one example of this. He also overblew his descriptions. When he said “angry shot,” it makes you wonder if someone can calmly fight for their lives when they shoot. He also said, “suddenly lurched forward” but is there another way to lurch other than suddenly? Another thing he said was “persistant woods” but are there even such thing as those?
Crane’s tones in the novel are violent, realistic, war-like, and emotional. • Conflicts (i. e. : man vs. society, man vs. nature, man vs. self, man vs. man). The conflict in the Red Badge of Courage is man vs. self. Henry struggles with his self-confidence in the battle and questions his own courage. He wonders if anyone else feels the same way. Henry was afraid to look like a fool and run, but was also scared of being killed. Henry obtained his “red badge of courage” by accident when another soldier strikes him in the head with his rifle.
He was able to show his comrades this war-wound and becomes a changed young man who overcomes the conflict with himself. • Significant quotes: • “He felt a quiet manhood, nonassertive, of sturdy and strong blood. ” Henry becomes a man after fighting courageously in battle. He becomes more confident, not only in himself, but in his regiment as well. They all had pride in the country they were serving. • “He, too, threw down his gun and fled. There was no shame in his face. He ran like a rabbit. ” Crane describes the way Henry fled from battle. It was not thought out or decided upon, but a reflexive action.
His fear got the best of him, and he fled without control. • “As he gazed around him the youth felt a flash of astonishment at the blue, pure sky and the sun gleaming on the trees and fields. It was surprising that Nature had gone tranquilly on with her golden process in the midst of so much devilment. ” Henry noticed that nature worked on its own and no one could manipulate it. No matter what ugly things were happening, nature still had its beauty. Literature in Context: This novel was based on the events of the Civil War Battle of Chncellorsville.
The Red Badge of Courage shattered American preconceptions about what a war novel could be like. In the decades before Crane’s novel, most fiction about the Civil War was idealistic, portraying the conflict as a great clash of opposed ideals. Stephen Crane focused on the individual perspective of a single soldier, Private Henry Fleming, during his first experiences of battle. Crane himself had neither fought in the war, not witnessed the battle. Personal Response: I really liked this book because it was really easy to understand. The sentences were not structured oddly and the vocabulary was not past my understanding.
It was not a boring book and I enjoyed reading about the experiences of soldiers during the civil war. I don’t like reading facts, but it was fun to read about someone’s perspective. By reading this novel, I gained an understanding of what really happens in the war and I have more respect toward our soldiers. I never knew what really went on. If I had to criticize this book in any way, it would be that Stephen Crane’s grammatically incorrect sentences bothered me. I don’t see the purpose in being grammatically incorrect, so I just wanted to fix his sentences sometimes.
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