The Red Badge Of Courage Analysis

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The Red Badge Of Courage


The Red Badge of Courage



The Red Badge of Courage, by Steven Crane, has been proclaimed one of the greatest war
novels of all time. It is a story that realistically depicts the American Civil War
through the eyes of Henry Fleming, an ordinary farm boy who decides to become a soldier.
Henry, who is fighting for the Union, is very determined to become a hero, and the story
depicts Henrys voyage from being a young coward, to a brave man. This voyage is the
classic trip from innocence to experience.


The story starts out with a heated debate between the soldiers. One boy had heard a rumor
that the regiment would be moving on to fight a battle the next day. Some of the soldiers
agree with this boy, while others think that their regiment will never partake in a real
battle. While watching this argument, Henry, the protagonist, decides that he would rather
go lay down and think rather then take part in the heated argument between the soldiers.
Henry, a simple farm boy, is rather excited when he hears the rumor that they will be
fighting soon. It had always been a dream of his to fight in a war, and become a hero, and
now his dream was coming true. Henry begins to think about what life was like before he
entered the army, and remembers the stories of war he has heard from old veterans. This
flashback is very effective in showing how his previous experiences have affected his
thoughts on war now. It is blatantly obvious that he is afraid that he will not be able to
withstand the pressures of a battle. He keeps telling himself that if he wants to become a
hero, he can not run away. He must stick out the battle with the rest of his comrades.
While marching along, Henry sees the first corpse he has ever seen. He shows pity for the
man, because the dead man had died in such poor conditions. The souls of his shoes were
worn bare. When Henry sees the corpse, he begins to wonder if his generals actually know
what they are doing. He thinks that the generals are leading him right into a trap, right
into the middle of the rebels.


Henry deals with his fear of battle by acting arrogant. He acts as if he has been in a
thousand battles, and complains about the walking, even though the reader knows that he
would rather be walking forever then go to battle at this point in time. It shows one of
Henry's defense mechanisms, how he uses his arrogance to hide his innocence.


Regiment 304 moves on to battle the next day. Henry becomes very scared, but is too proud
to talk to any of the others soldiers about his fears. All the soldiers are very anxious
to fight in the war, and Tom and Henry talk about how they are not going to run away from
war, and how they want to become big time war heroes. This is ironic, because in the end
of the book their wishes come true. When the battle starts, all the soldiers get very
anxious and nervous. Tom and Henry don't turn out to be as brave as they think that they
could be. While hiding, Tom finds Henry, and gives him a manila envelope of letters for
his family. Tom believes that this will be his first and his last battle. Henry ends up
fulfilling his worst nightmare. Instead of sticking out the battle with the rest of his
regiment, he hides behind some brush in order to spare himself from dying. He listens in
on the battle, and to much of his surprise, he hears cheering from what's left of his
regiment. He then takes off into the woods in anger. While running through the woods his
conscience begins to speak to him. His conscience calls him a coward, and a deserter. Out
of guilt, Henry runs back to the battle site, and meets again with his regiment. These
actions showed Henry's maturity, and desire to be a war hero.


When Henry meets up his regiment and older tattered man begins to have a discussion with
him. The old man asks Henry "where yeh hit, ol' boy?" meaning, where he got shot. With
massive feelings of guilt, Henry shrugs away from the man and runs back into the woods.
From behind a tree, he looks at all the wounded soldiers. "At times he regarded the
wounded soldiers in an envious way. He conceived persons with torn bodies to be
particularly happy. He wished that he, too had a wound, a red badge of courage" This shows
Henrys desire to be a wounded war hero. He does not want to be set apart from the other
boys as a coward. As soon as the old soldier passed him, he went back to the lines and
continued on with the boys. He starts walking next to Jim Conklin, a soldier that he knew
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