Red Badge Of Courage (1368 words) Essay

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.

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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 pretty well. They are talking, when all of a sudden Jim runs away.

He falls onto the ground and dies. This death has a very big affect on Henry.

Jim was his first friend to be killed in battle. He feels guilty that Jim was
put through so much pain, and he just ran away, like a coward. After spending
the night sleeping near Jim’s corpse, Henry woke up and was ready to march
again. He meets up with another tattered soldier, who is crazy and dying. Henry
gets very angry at the mad for talking to him, and runs away, swearing that the
man knows his secret. He refuses to go back to the regiment, because he thinks
that everyone will regard him as a coward. All of a sudden, Henry sees the
soldiers’ frantically running. One grabs him, and Henry asks him why they are
running so frantically. The only response he gets is a whack in the head with
the soldiers’ gun. A few moments later, when Henry is able to get up, he
begins to march with passer by soldiers. A soldier walking next to him notices
the wound on his head, and automatically assumes it to be a bullet wound. The
kind-hearted soldier leads Henry back to his regiment. The first person Henry
sees when he gets to the group is his friend Tom. In order to save face, Henry
makes up a big story about how he got shot in the head, and then got separated
from the regiment. Tom takes great care of Henry, cleans him up and makes sure
that he gets enough food, and a good night’s sleep. After being pampered by
Tom, Henry realizes that this is not the way to becoming a hero. In order to
become a hero, he must fight in battles, and get a real red badge of courage,
not just a knock in the head. He returns the envelope of letters to Tom. This
scene marks a dramatic change in character for both of the boys. It shows their
movement from innocence to experience. From then on, the two men walk side by
side while marching. They showed their courage often in tough situations. Henry
suspected that his generals were leading them right into trouble, and he gets
very angry about that fact. Henry tells Tom about his speculations, but Tom will
not believe him. During the next battle, Henry shows his courage by being the
first and the fastest soldier to fire. After the victorious battle, Henry and
Tom over hear a conversation between generals and captains, and they find out
that the next battle they are going to be fighting is going to be very tough,
and the general is looking for spar regiment.. The leader feels that there is no
way Regiment 304 will survive the battle, and calls the soldiers ?mule
drivers’, thinking that they are slow, and rather stupid. When Henry and Tom
hear this, they are enraged. They are determined to fight as hard as the can,
with all their heart and souls. Henry and Tom prove themselves well in the
battle. They steal the confederate flag, and are both brave enough to go out on
the field with out weapons. After the regiment retreats, the general recognizes
both soldiers as extremely brave, and comment that they are fit to be generals
themselves. This final action is what finalizes the movement from innocence to
experience for Henry and Tom. They went into the war as little boys, and now
they are moving on as men. They have both earned their red badges of courage, as
well as the hero status they had dreamed of obtaining forever.


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