The Transformation of Henry Fleming in The Red Badge of Courage
Stephen Crane's purpose in writing The Red Badge of Courage was to dictate the pressures faced by the prototypical American soldier in the Civil War. His intent was accomplished by making known the horrors and atrocities seen by Unionist Henry Fleming during the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the conflicts within himself.
Among the death and repulsion of war, there exists a single refuge for the warrior--his brethren. The success of combat is directly related to the morale of the soldiers, as it is the relationship with the neighboring soldier that demonstrates the motive for fighting. This association between men creates an abundance of compulsion from one man to the next. Similarly, as Henry Fleming developed a rapport with men throughout the 304th Regiment, he began to be subjected to the pressures of war and his companions, which greatly influenced his maturation during the Civil War.
Having read of marches, sieges, conflicts, and the exploits of Greek warriors, and, as well, longing to see such, Henry enlisted into the Union army, against the wishes of his mother. Before his departure, Mrs. Fleming warned Henry, "...you must never do no shirking, child, on my account. If so be a time comes when yeh have to be kilt or do a mean thing, why, Henry, don't think of anything `cept what's right..." Henry carried with himself this counsel throughout his enlistment, resulting in his questioning himself on his bravery. As a sign of Henry's maturation, he began to analyze his character whilst marching, while receiving comments from his brethren of courage in the face of all adversity, as well as their fears of battle.
As the troops marched, the youth heard remarks such as, "...we've got `em now. At last, by the eternal thunders, we'll lick `em good!" and, "...but I'm not going to skedaddle. The man that bets on my running will lose his money..." Henry listened to these annotations steadfastly, still questioning himself if he were going to run, swept up in the compulsion of the group. Upon Henry's first time seeing a corpse, he felt cold and alone, convincing himself that the other members of the group believed the same. The opinions of the group, once again, had a grand influence on Henry's ability to mature, as he lost control of personally discrete opinions, fearing "the lurking menaces of the future."
Anecdotes from the group also influenced Henry's maturation. In contrast to reality, the boastings of the men imply an upholding of a fable of war; that is, the group can succeed without the individual. An unmerited comment from a soldier stated, "I met one of th' 148th Maine boys an' he ses his brigade fit th' hull rebel army fer four hours over on th' turnpike road an' killed about five thousand of `em." As well, a man named Bill was said to have been sent to the hospital because...