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Tones Of Intensity, Paranoia And Desperation Used In Crane's The Red Badge Of Courage

1777 words - 7 pages

War is an experience that many would consider brutal, horrific, and even inhumane. It is however, a part of the fabric of humanity. It has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen as long as there are humans on Earth. In Stephen Crane’s novel, The Red Badge of Courage, he depicts the time of the Civil War through the eyes of a young new soldier named Henry. Crane uses masterful imagery and figurative language to stimulate the reader’s imagination, but also to engage their mind as they envision the intensity of war and picture the reality of the circumstances. In order to do this, Crane portrays a variety of tones throughout the book, namely: paranoia, desperation, and intensity. These tones follow Henry as he follows the path of a soldier.
After Henry enlists in the army, he is afraid of what the future will hold, and is unsure of whether his strength will stay with him as fighting erupts, specifically, Henry is cynical of the soldiers who seem to be excited for war. Crane uses such elements of figurative language as metaphors to create a paranoid tone as Henry tries to find his character amidst the impersonal environment of war. “His emotions made him feel strange in the presence of men who talked excitedly of a prospective battle as of a drama they were about to witness, with nothing but eagerness and curiosity apparent in their faces. It was often that he suspected them to be liars. He did not pass such thoughts without severe condemnation of himself….He was convicted by himself of many shameful crimes against the gods of traditions.” (9-10). Henry feels threatened by the army he has enlisted in. He is not sure of how he must act or, more importantly, who he must be when faced with the insurmountable odds placed upon him by war. He is both afraid and confused, leading to an overall tone of apprehension and paranoia. Crane’s allusion to gods accentuates the feeling of displacement that is evident within Henry’s mind. The regiment is ordered to move towards the battlefield where the impending battle looms ahead of them. As he looks upon the enemy, Henry is startled, not only by the size of the army, but at the sheer magnitude of the battle they are about to partake in. Crane uses visual imagery, particularly colors, and bestial metaphors to create the picture of a monstrous enemy that Henry’s comparatively puny regiment must face. “The rushing yellow of the developing day went on behind their backs. When the sunrays at last struck full and mellowingly upon the earth, the youth saw that the landscape was streaked with two long, thin, black columns which disappeared on the brow of a hill in front and rearward vanished in a wood. They were like two serpents crawling from the cavern of the night” (11). Crane’s use of colors helps to exemplify the contrast between the bright prospect the weather would normally bring and the dark and intense reality of the battle to come. Henry’s exact emotions are not shown in this...

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