Characters as Symbols in Crane's The Red Badge of Courage
The Red Badge of Courage was a significant novel in the way that the characters were portrayed. Crane hardly ever used the actual names of the soldiers. He simply described them as the loud soldier, the tall soldier, the cheery soldier, and the tattered soldier. Crane made the characters stand out in the use of describing them and promoting their relationship with Henry and his struggle during the battles. Crane did a fantastic job with relating the different characters with different roles that Henry was involved in. The loud soldier, tall soldier, cheery soldier, and tattered soldier all have a significant part in creating the novel. The characters in the book are there to serve Henry by prompting him to action or reflection or by being a comparison or contrast to him.
In The Red Badge of Courage, the loud soldier's real name was Wilson. His character dramatically changed as the novel progressed. At the beginning of the novel, Wilson is an extremely loud and boastful soldier. This is exactly how he received the name loud soldier. Wilson is initially loud, opinionated, and naïve. For the first half of the book, Crane refers to him almost exclusively as "the loud soldier." Some examples of his loud and obnoxious self was when Crane described him as the loud one from a corner and when the loud soldier kept saying "Huh, and shucks" (Crane 11)! When Henry and the loud soldier talk of fighting the loud soldier seemed so confident and self-assured that he said, "We've got `em now. At last, by the eternal thunders, we'll lick `em good" (19)! Another time Henry encounters the loud soldier he indignantly assures Henry that if battle occurs, he will certainly fight in it: "I said I was going to do my share of the fighting--that's what I said. And I am, too. Who are you anyhow? You talk as if you thought you was Napoleon Bonaparte" (21). Here Henry begins to get annoyed with the loud soldier.
Certain that the loud soldier is about to meet his doom, he gives the youth, Henry, a yellow envelope to deliver to his family should he die in battle. The loud soldier was described as quavering sob of pity for himself (Crane 31). This erratic shift from obnoxious bravado to pure vulnerability demonstrates Wilson's immaturity. Like Henry, he is initially little more than a youth trying desperately to assure himself of his manhood. You will begin to see how Crane shows a dramatic change in character of the loud soldier.
Wilson's transformation becomes clear relatively quickly. We do not see or hear of Wilson until the middle of the book when he undergoes a dramatic change. When Henry received his shameful wound the loud soldier is the one that takes care of Henry. After disappearing into battle, he resurfaces to take care of Henry with all of the bustling of an "amateur nurse" upon Henry's return to camp (89). The loud, young soldier watched his comrade...