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Stephen Crane's The Red Badge Of Courage

2204 words - 9 pages

In The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane shows the growth of a young man, Henry, who is influenced by several other characters. The year was 1862 and it was the period of the Civil War. The story starts at night on a cold morning when the army was resting in their tents, bunks, and around the campfires. As Jim Conklin, who later becomes known as the tall soldier, washes his shirt at the river, he hears a rumor about the regiment. He rushes to tell his comrades that the regiment will move the next day. After the loud soldier, Wilson, hears this rumor, he argues with Jim that it is a liar. While all of the rumors are spreading, the main character Henry is just standing on the side watching and listening..

Henry then begins to think about how his reaction to fighting in battle will be. A flashback to when he first enlisted against his mother’s wishes occurs to him. He remembers stories of glorious and bloody wars of times past. Henry thought that the war was a courageous adventure. During that time, people lived a simple life, mostly based on growing and harvesting crops. The youth also recalls his mother’s lecture before he left for war, “You watch out Henry and take good care of yourself in this fighting business. You watch out and take good care of yourself” (pg.5). His mother warned him about taking care of himself and staying away from bad companions.

His mother’s role symbolizes the realities of war because of the time in which this story takes place. It is hard to know if she was uneducated or not. Her farming lifestyle implies that she was a hard-working woman, especially since Henry’s dad was not around. This image also sets a realistic tone going along with Henry’s fantasizing. Her small but simple actions, such as knitting him socks and the farewell speech, shows she loved Henry and wanted him to return home safely as soon as the war was over. Henry remembered her saying, “The lords will be done, Henry” (pg.4).

From this quote, one learns of Henry’s emotions about his mother and her views about war. He struggles with the idea of not knowing how he will react once he is in battle. The feeling that he might run once he sees a few of his men get shot or blown up right in front of him makes him afraid. Running would prove that he is not courageous or heroic and that his fantasies of triumph in war are just fantasies. The more he pictured himself fighting, “the more he failed in an effort to see himself standing stoutly in the midst of them,” them being the threats of the future attacks (p.8). Henry’s response to moving within the next 24hrs was unpredictable, so he would wait to face his fears.

Arguing, two soldiers enter the tent where Henry is pondering about his reactions and emotions. The two discuss the being of the rumor. Henry asks Jim whether if he believes any of the soldiers will run from the battle. Jim then begins to talk to Henry more into detail when he says that some will run, but others will stay. Jim believed since...

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