In the novel The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephan Crane, the author uses symbolism to illustrate the main character’s actions and the setting’s scenery. Henry Fleming, the protagonist of the novel, cannot decide whether he can be a hero or if he will fall as a coward. The symbolism used in The Red Badge of Courage represents Henry’s decision to fight proudly and how common items mean more than what meets the eye.
Stephan Crane was born in 1871 in New Jersey. At the age of twenty-two, he published his first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets. Later on, Crane wrote sketches and short stories for newspapers in New York. It was not until his second novel, The Red Badge of Courage, got published in 1895 that he became a well-known author. He died at the age of twenty-eight in 1900. He is one of the best-known American authors that wrote about naturalism. (Hafer)
Stephan Crane’s novel The Red Badge of Courage is about a vast decision that the main character has to face. Henry Fleming is a young man, referred to as “the youth” or “Flem,” that has just enlisted into the Union army. The novel first starts out as Henry’s regiment is resting on a riverbank. Rumors flow around the campsite
saying that they will soon move into battle. Once they do, the regiment starts to hear the distant sounds of the battlefront. It is Henry’s first battle and he is terrified. He asks his friend, Jim Conklin, if he would run away from the fight. Jim tells Henry that if the regiment runs, then he will run but if they stay, then he will stay and fight by their side. The regiment finally gets to the battle and starts to fight. After, Henry is proud and cannot believe that he survived his first encounter. After a short nap, Henry wakes up to the yells of his regiment. Another round of Confederate soldiers are coming so Henry runs into the deep forest. Henry runs until he sees a dead soldier. Henry decides to go back to find his regiment but he finds a group that is taking care of wounded soldiers. He finds Jim Conklin as one of the wounded soldiers and cares for him along with a tattered soldier. Jim later dies and Henry is left alone with the tattered soldier alone in the woods. Henry leaves the tattered soldier to die alone in the forest because of him asking Henry too many questions about a wound that Henry does not have.
Afterward, Henry is reunited with his regiment. In revenge for Jim Conklin’s death, Henry finds his inner courage and fights in the next battle alongside his friend, Wilson. He and Wilson fight until the end. Henry decides to hold the flag during the next battles that they win. At the end, Henry feels guilty for leaving the tattered soldier to die alone but decides to put it behind him because of all the good that he had done during the battles.
For every time Henry was discouraged in this short novel, something pushed him back to positive thinking for himself. Joseph Conrad, a writer, says, “the greatest...