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Red Badge Of Courage Essay

607 words - 3 pages

Defining CourageOn the surface Henry Fleming's red badge of courage was a gash in his head caused by the butt of a rifle. This wound actually being a fake medal actually representing his cowardice and fear of battle. While many men and women may criticize Henry for deserting his battalion, it is only human nature to want to survive. This is thoroughly explained in Walter Cannon's theory of the fight or flight mechanism. It is a human's reaction to life threatening situations, and only given the options of fighting for survival or fleeing to preserve one's own life (Fornarola 1). In Henry's first encounter with combat he becomes entangled with the regiment gaining a sense of bravery along side the other men firing their weapons. Upon ...view middle of the document...

In a blind rage over the death of a close friend Henry continues to fire and reload on the opposing forces. He earned a large amount of respect from the superior officers despite the fact that their regiment was described as fighting like "mule drivers." They were to be sacrificed in order to save the blue army. During the battle, Henry picks up the battle flag after the bearer was shot. He waves it for encouragement towards the men, helping to lead them to an unexpected victory.After Henry's valiant effort in battle he is considered a brave, courageous soldier. He is able to leave the battle field with a sense of pride. The question is though; does Henry Fleming really have a red badge of courage? Originally Henry believes that bravery can be defined by a wound received during the heat of battle, a battle scar. Once he does have this the regiment perceives him to be a man of bravery. This is where Henry actually confuses himself. He has both run from the battle and fought very valiantly. Can a wound that he received while running away still stand for his courage during other opportunities? Perhaps Henry saw that he abandoned his comrades and decided to make right his wrongs.Whether or not Henry is considered courageous by his colleagues, it is not their decision to make. Courage is defined by going against one's own fears. Henry clearly opposes all that his mind is telling him. The anxiety that plagued him throughout the novel is subdued and he becomes a hero among men, a soldier.Fornarola, Andrew, Letters to the Editor: Beyond the "Fight or Flight" Diplomacy, http://www.princeton.edu/~afp/archives/vol003_iss02/letters.shtml, February 1, 2004, Pages 1-2

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