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The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage is the story of a young man named Henry Fleming. The novel concerns only two days in his life and he is a boy when the novel begins, a man when the novel ends. He enlists in the 304th Regiment of New York Volounteers against his mother’s wishes, and spends many boring months in training. He is sent into battle finally. The battle of Chancellorville is the agreed upon location where the book probably takes place. It is mentioned that he travels along the Arappahanock River and by Richmond. The book details historical fact of the battle.

This was the closest the South ever ame to Washington D. C. and it was a very intense battle. Against a background of battlefield trauma, Crane sets a very important battle: the battle going on in Henry’s mind. Henry believes he is faced with imminent death, and throws down his rifle and flees during the second skirmish on the first day. He attempts to rationalize his actions and becomes increasingly ashamed of himself. As he wanders in the rear of the fighting, he encounters a dead soldier. Eventually he falls in with some wounded men and witnesses the death of his close friend, Jim Conklin.

As a result of that, he deserts another friend dying and uns. He wants to make a wound for himself so that he is removed from the battle, and by accident is hit on the head by a deserter. He’s discovered by another soldier, who helps him return to his regiment. There he lies and says he was wounded in battle. The next day he goes to the front again, and actually retrieves his army’s colors from the dying flag bearer. He urges his comrads on, and is proclaimed a hero. Crane wrote this book when he was twenty three years old, in ten days.

He had never been in battle and critics through the United States and England could not believe that he had never seen war. His ources were teachers athis small private school in New York State. The book’s genius is now regarded as an American masterpiece of psychological writing. Unfortunately, it seems he was probably haunted by the experience of this book and ultimately went to join the Spanish American War. He was disqualified from fighting due to tuberculosis, but he continued into Cuba as a reporter for Pulitzer and Hearst. He contracted malaria there and several years later died at the age of twenty eight.

The Red Badge of Courage is an intense inner story of thoughts, fears and imaginings that any member of an infantry would ind. As comrads fell to the right and left, and as people were pannicked, the chaos and confusion of kill or be killed comes forth in simple boyish questions. He stares at corposes. He becomes obsessed with the thought that the troops are marching into a trap and none of the leaders know it. He wants to warn his companions. He feels stupid and incompetent. The first battle arrives and he feels the physical effects of fighting burning in his eyes and roaring in his ears. He feels suffocated by the smoke of gunfire.

All the soldiers and officers are fighting in every way possible and when it stops, infront f him, he sees everyone around him dead and the wounded crawling away. He hears the sounds of fighting coming from everywhere and realizes that he is surrounded by war. Crane’s language becomes impressionistic. Henry is amazed to see “a pure blue sky and the sun gleaming on the trees and fields. ” He then wakes up, somehow, and sees how proud he is of himself. Suddenly the enemy reappears. The youth feels it must be a mistake. He sees men around him running and he feels he is being left alone to die. He turns and runs.

He runs into yet another battle where, at the edge of the forest, he feels as if he’s being kept in by ature itself. That the branches of the trees are trying to halt his progress. He sees his friend Jim Conklin shot through the stomach, mortally wounded, and is told he should remove him from the battle. Jim runs to the bushes before he dies to avoid being run over by war wagons. Henry watches with an agony almost as great as his friend. Henry tries to understand what Jim is thinking but cannot reach his friend.

Crane ends the chapter with the sentance, “The red sun was pasted in the sky like a wafer. The soldier left behind is now dying as well, and Henry runs, unable to confront yet another death. He is symbolically leaving his image of a hero. His running takes him back towards a battle and finally, just as he is contemplating some sort of wound to get him away he is hit on the head by a coward running faster than he. He’s very hungry, very tired and his feet ache. Now he lays in the woods with a terrible head wound and feels he can just die. He meets a nameless person who leads him back to his regiment. The man dissapears as quickly as he’s come.

His friends in his regiment have no idea where he has been and yet they are so happy to see him alive that they give him coffee, food, and put him to bed. He sleeps soundly that ight, probably from exhaustion. The next morning, the regiment wakes up, prepares for battle. Henry thinks he can keep his secret and goes, behaves like a real soldier. He begins daydreaming about returning home and telling his mother and friends wonderful stories of the war. He thinks he has learned the truth about life, that neither bravery nor cowardice matters if they are not noticed by others; what happens to a man is largely governed by chance.

If things go well, he can be satisfied, if they do not, he must do the best he can under the circumstances. “In the present,” he declared to himself, “That it was only the doomed and he damned who roared with sincerity at circumstance. Few but they ever did it. A man with the fool stomach and the respect ofhis fellows had no business to scold about anything that he may think to be wrong with the ways of the universe, or even the ways of society. Let the unfortunates rail; the others may play marbles. ” Henry realizes that was is not what he imagined. He imagines he had been favored by fate, that he had acted wisely the day before.

The regiment marches to relieve a command which has been fighting in deep, dark trenches. No one can speak, the gunfire is everywhere. Everyone is tense, worn and exhausted and they wait “like men tied to stakes. ” One of their friends is shot and Henry and his good friend Wilson go to get water. On the way they see an overview of the battlefield and are appalled at the fury of so many men. While they walk back, they come upon a general and the staff. They listen secretly, and to their amazement they hear an officer refer to their regement as a lot of mule drivers.

They learn their regiment is taking the offensive, and that to charge against the enemy means not many will survive. They plan to tell their fellows but they don’t. They keep it to themselves and enter the battle. The charge begins and there is so much pushing and shoving that Henry doesn’t comprehend that the line is moving forward. He runs to a distant clump of trees as fast as he can. The enemy shoots, and Henry without realizing it is leading his regiment. He moves from tree to tree, and notices each blade of green grass and the rough texture of the bark on the trees.

Henry, with Wilson close behind, run infront of the regiment, leading the way across the field and yelling, “Come on! ” He runs as fast as he can to avoid being hit by a bullet before he reaches the trees. The man next to him holds the flag, and when hat man falls, Henry reaches and grabs the flag. Henry keeps the flag and just as the enemy prepares to gather forces and attack again, the nmen pannick. Henry walks into the mob and holds the flag up high. The enemy attacks at close range, yet the regiment holds and repulses the onslaught.

Several men run up to the two youths in the quiet and tell them they are being cited for bravery and valor. Instead of remembering the mule drivers, they think of themselves as heroes. Yet another battle and the officers tell the men to charge. Henry considers and decides that if they were to stay where they were, they would be killed. Crane writes, “It was a blind and despairing rush by the collection of men in dusty and tattered blue over a green sward and under a sapphire sky toward a fence, dimly outlined in smoke, from behind which spluttered the fierce rifles of enemies.

Henry keeps the flag and waves it toward the front. Henry grabs the enemy flag in the battle and is now carrying both. He gives one flag to his friend Wilson and keeps the other one for himself. The novel ends with Henry moving along in a group of very weary soldier, away from the violence of battle. He smiles to himself, “For he saw that the world was a world for him. His mind turns to mages of tranquil skies, fresh meadows and cool brooks. ” The battle is over, and ironically the men are ordered back to the spot where they had started.

He looks at his heroic deeds, puts his sins in prospective and feels neither proud nor guilty. He is glad to be alive. Crane ends the novel with a poetic description of the nature surrounding the weary soldiers. The book ends with everyone in peace. I enjoyed the book more than I had when I read it O’ so many years ago. I believe a little experience is required to put these things in prospective, more than a ten year old boy possesses. It is a very complex work, under the skin of the story.

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Home » Literature » The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage

The Civil War was a time of freedom and passion.  The soldiers in this war had to be brave and have courage to fight the enemy.  In the novel The Red Badge of Courage, Henry Fleming, the main character, has to overcome all of his fears and doubts.  Henry has to fight courageously and triumph over his fear of death and being a coward.  The title, The Red Badge of Courage, means a wound and Henry, the youth, wants this badge because he wants to show his courage that he has in him.  The youth also must find a way to tell the regiment the truth and lead a brilliant charge.  Henry is in charge of holding the flag during the charge, this signifies the courage that he has in himself.  He finds, after being wounded, how accepting the other regiment must be for letting a stranger stay in their camp.

The youth encounters feelings of pain and suffering of others and himself on the battlefield.  Henry feels the horrible feelings in the atmosphere; he sees death and the horror in the dead soldiers eyes.  When he is running away from the battle through the woods he finds a dead soldier.  When Henry sees this dead soldier he realizes that he is no longer immortal.  Henry realizes that he too could die but before this he thought he would never be killed because he was special.  I believe that this shows his immaturity because teenagers and children believe it will never happen to them until one day it happens to them or they see something that makes them realize that it could happen to them.  Later while Henry is in the woods he feels that everything in the woods was going silent and he believed that the woods were listening to the ongoing battle.  This shows Henry how nature really is quite peaceful and creates joyful music, but when man intrudes he blocks the sound of natures music.  In this novel, Henry has to overcome many of his fears, feelings he has, and feelings that others create around him.  Henry Fleming, the main character in The Red Badge of Courage, experiences internal conflicts as well as external conflicts and various moods that shape a young boy in the Civil War.

Fear is an inner turmoil which one encounters at some period of time in ones life.  Fear is nothing more than a conflict of emotions that is felt inside oneself.  Fear is a conflict inside that seems to fill the soul with mixed emotions; one does not know how to justify this feeling.  Fear is nothing more than a privilege as Henry Fleming said: He needed to believe his fear was privileged because he felt anonymous, a veritable unknown soldier in the midst of vast actions performed by vast collections of men (Pease, 92).  During battle Henry has to tell himself that fear is nothing more than a privilege that he has when fighting.  Henry wants to make himself internally believe fear is only there as a privilege that he should be thankful for having.  Henry has to overcome his many fears in The Red Badge of Courage.  Henry has to be brave and courageous to overcome his fears of war and what others think about him.  He needs to build up his self-esteem.  He has to find his inner-self and fight his internal conflicts.

Henry, the youth, has a fear of running from battle which shows that he has an internal conflict of fear.  Henry is thinking that if the battle gets tense he will run away.  Henry Fleming has a conversation with the loud soldier and asks him: How do you know you wont run when the time comes? (Crane, 17).  He asks the loud soldier this because Henry has a fear of running himself.  Henry also asks if the loud soldier thinks any of the boys will run.  Henry is asking this because he is experiencing his own internal conflict and wants to know if the loud soldier thinks he will run.  Henry wants to overcome his emotions and make himself believe that he will not run.  Later, Henry is walking in the woods and suddenly his emotions make him start to believe that the forest would suddenly be full of rifle barrels.  Henrys conflict is making him believe  that death will come shortly in the woods, and without anyone knowing death was there.  He believes everyone with him will die.  He is thinking this because he is afraid that he will run when the fight starts.  On the first day he does well, and then runs away (Berryman, 9).

The youth has a fear that he will be made fun of for not being wounded.  This is one of Henrys internal conflicts.  He jest at scars who never felt a wound is the spirit which governs Flemings first conscious reaction to the thought of his own death (Weiss, 28).  Henry has never truly felt a wound.  He has been hurt but has never been truly wounded.  Henry is a coward when it comes to battle because he has an internal emotion that makes him fear war.  Henry also fears that while walking with the wounded men he will be made fun of because he does not have a wound.  Later, A Union soldier clubs him in the panic retreat; Cranes ironic title refers to the badge of that wound; the youth is taken for a good soldier (Berryman, 9).  A frantic retreating soldier hits Henry in the head.  His mind took a mechanical but firm impression, so that afterward everything was pictured and explained to him save why he himself was there (Pease, 78).  Henry was confused about why he was in this war.  He did not have any reason to be where he was.  Henry experienced fear of not being wounded but after he was wounded his fear left him.  Henry now no longer has the fear of being made fun of for not being wounded, which in turn resolves this internal conflict.

Another one of Henrys internal conflicts is fear that the rest of the regiment will believe that he ran away from battle.  Henry is afraid that the other men will believe that he is a coward.  .at those moments when he believes himself capable of rational decision and actionthat opinions and actions of other men control and direct him (Smith, 96).  He realized that what his comrades thought and did eternally control him.  Henry began to feel angry with his comrades:

He knew it could be proved that they had been fools.  He wondered what they would remark when later he appeared in camp.  His mind heard howls of derision.  Their destiny would not enable them to understand his sharper point of view. (Crane, 44)

Henry imagined the whole regiment talking about him, for running away.  This shows internal conflict.  Henry thought the whole regiment would talk about him, but he realized it would be only a select few.  His mind went through a series of emotions during this time including fear.  He thought of a few people who would not leave him alone after this.  His internal conflict is the thought of being made fun of by his comrades.  He was sure the next battle the regiment would try to keep a good eye on him to see if he would run.

Henry has many fears but in the end he overcomes several of them.  Henrys internal conflicts are tough to get through but he conquers them.  He discovers how fear can be overcome just as any other emotion.  Henry realizes how getting a wound, red badge of courage, is really not what is necessary to be thought of as brave.  The youth also discovers how even though he ran away from the battle he was not made fun of by his comrades.  Fleming worked his way through many internal conflicts in this novel.

In ones life many problems and difficulties are encountered.  Some of the difficulties that are presented are harder than others.  Every person at one time or another has to use skills to get through a difficulty or problem.  Some of these problems are telling the truth or doing what is asked.  Henry experiences conflict when asked to do a task.  He was asked to lead the charge, holding the regiments flag, this proves why the other soldiers take him as a good soldier because of his wound.  Henry is afraid he will not lead the charge the way he was asked.  The youth and his friend had a small scuffle over the flag. Give it t me! No, let me keep it! Each felt satisfied with the others possession of it. (Crane, 107).  Henry and his friend were fighting over the flag which is the external conflict that displays Henrys difficulties during the battle.  Henry also has the external conflict of telling the truth to the regiment about his wound.  The other soldiers believe that it was made by a bullet but unbeknownst to them it was made by a gun butt.  He also has to tell the regiment how he truly got separated.  They believe that he got lost, but he really ran away from the battle like a coward. The soldiers want to know the reason he got lost but the conflict is that Henry has not told the soldiers.  Henry has to get over all of his difficulties and external conflicts to truly be a courageous soldier.

Telling the truth is a difficult thing to do especially when one is praised for something they did not do..  Henry was taken for a good soldier when another soldier examined his wound and said it was from a bullet.  Another soldier said:

Where yeh hit ol boy? He asked in a brotherly tone.  The youth felt instant panic at this question although at first its full import was not born in upon him. What? he asked. Where yeh hit? repeated the tattered man. Why, began the youth, IIthat iswhyI He turned away suddenly and slid through the crowd. (Crane, 51-52)

This demostrates how much harder it will be for Henry to tell the truth about being wounded.  Henry wants to tell the other men the truth about his wound but when they praise him he feels godly.  The men believe that a bullet grazed his head but Henry is trying to tell them that a retreating Union soldier hit him.  Every time someone says something about how honorable he is, it gets a bit harder to tell the other soldier.  Henry shows an external conflict by stuttering when he was talking to the tattered man.  One might see this as Henry lying to the tattered man.  Henry never tells the soldier the truth about his wound, which shows his immaturity.  Henry wants to tell the other soldiers but he never conquers his fear of being ridiculed by the other soldier.

Henry has an external conflict of telling the truth about getting lost.  When Henry stumbles on to another camp, he is confronted by a soldier who asks him:

What regment do yeh blong the?  Eh?  Whats that?  Th 304th NYork?  Why, what corps is that in?  Oh, it is?  Why, I thought they wasnt engaged t-day theyre way over in th center.  Oh, they was, eh?  Well, pretty nearly everybody got their share a fight in t-day.  (Crane, 71)

The other soldiers just think he got separated, but the external conflict is that Henry has to tell them that he actually ran away.  Henry exhibits this conflict by not actually saying how he left his regiment.  He displays the external conflict by trying to avoid talking about why he was at this regiment.  Stephen Crane, author of The Red Badge of Courage, makes Henry struggle through this novel by using conflict.  All life, Crane appears to be saying, is a struggle, a constant sea of violence in which we test our beliefs and our values (Smith, 95).  Henry is in a constant struggle in which his emotions take a toll because of the external conflicts that he encounters.  Henry never tells the other soldiers how he got separated because he is asked to lead the charge and he gets caught up in his emotions.

Henry encounters another conflict which is leading the charge.  He was having difficulty because he wants to lead the charge correctly as he was asked.  Henry was afraid that he would run away which is the external conflict that one sees.  When Henry is thinking about the charge he feels like a man.  He felt a quiet manhood, nonassertive but of sturdy and strong blood.  He knew that he would no more quall before his guides whenever they should point.He was a man (Beaver, 71).  Henry realizes that he can no longer quiver or be a coward under the leads of the other men.  Henry sees that the only way to get over his fear is to stare into the eyes of death himself.  Henry then thinks that if he stays with his comrades he will be strong.  Much has been of Henrys joining the subtle brotherhood, but a few remember that when the  army makes a second charge against the regiment, the mysterious fraternity dissolves under an individuality, revived by Henrys sense of self-preservations (Wolford, 102).  Under pressure, the soldiers brotherly friendships disappear, which displays external conflict.

Henry has overcome many external conflicts.  He had to tell the truth about being wounded, being separated, and his fear of leading the charge incorrectly.  Henry finds a way to not tell the other soldiers about being wounded.  He also finds a way to not tell the soldiers about how he got separated.  Fleming was asked to lead the charge, and he is worried about leading the charge correctly.  Henry has to struggle through his external his external conflicts and through the war.

In this war, the actual fighting is not the battle.  Emotion is a war in itself.  During this war, Henry experiences different types of mood.  He encounters the feelings of pain and suffering of others while on the battlefield.  Henry feels the emotions coming from the wounded soldiers.  Henry feels, that while running through the forest, everything goes silent as if the forest was listening to the foreign battle sounds.  While running through the woods, Henry encounters a dead soldier.  Seeing this creates a mood for Henry.  This mood is Henry realizes that he no longer is invincible and can die.  Henry experiences many emotions throughout this war which help shape and mold him into a man.

Pain and suffering are things that one finds on a battlefield.  Henry encounters the feelings of death.  At last, with a twisted movement, he got upon his hands and knees, and from thence, like a babe trying to walk, to his feethe went lurching over the grass.  He fought an intense battle with his body (Wolford, 108).  Henry shows mood of pain and intense suffering in himself as well as other soldiers on and off the battlefield.  He saw the wounded soldiers and thought:

At times he regarded the wounded soldier in an envious way.He wished he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage.  Such a badge would grant Henry membership and acceptance in the group, would assuage his guilt and close the gap between himself and the others caused be his alienation. (Wolford, 106)

Henry shows the feeling that he does not want to be left out and he wants a wound, which shows mystery of the human experience.  Henry exhibits mystery of the human experience because he wants a wound, why would one want a wound.  He also gains more of the feeling of pain and suffering while walking with the other wounded soldiers.  Henry sees mood throughout this war and fears some of these feelings.

War creates many sounds that are foreign to the forest.  The forest has its own sounds, creates but these sounds are very quiet unlike the sounds of war.  Henry feels the mood that the sounds of war create.  While Henry runs in the woods:

As he ran, he became aware that the forest had stopped its music, as if at last becoming capable of learning the foreign sounds.  The trees hushed and stood motionless.  Everything seemed to be listening to the crackle and clatter and earshaking thunder.  The chorus peeled over the still earth. (Berryman, 15)

This shows how the forest stopped singing its music to listen to the sounds of the battle.  Henry experiences this mood while on and off the battlefield.  Henry felt everything except the battle goes completely silent.  Each blade of green grass was bold and clear.  He thought that he was aware of each change in the thin, transparent vapor that floated idly in sheets (Pease, 78).  He felt aware of everything in the forest, which shows the mood of tranquility.  Henry experiences many moods but while in the woods he feels peaceful.  The war creates many different types of moods.

Death is created by war.  Henry encounters death several times throughout the battle.  Henry shows the mood of vulnerability when he sees a dead soldier.  Near the threshold he stopped, horror-stricken of the sight of a thing.  He was being looked at by a dead man who was seated with his back against a column-like tree (Beaver, 70).  Henry realizes that he is no longer immortal, he is vulnerable to death.  This mood is created by what happens:

As the flap of the blue jacket fell away from the body, he could see that the side looked as if it had been chewed by wolves.  The youth turned with sudden, livid rage, toward the battlefield.  He shook his fist.  He seemed about to deliver a philippic.  Hell–  The red sun was pasted in the sky like a wafer. (Crane, 56-57)

Henry experiences sadness when he sees this dismembered soldier.  Henry inside feels that he is somehow connected to the dead solder.  This experience created different moods that are connected to other soldiers throughout this novel.

The Red Badge of Courage contains many literary elements, including internal conflict, external conflict, and mood.  Henry Fleming encounters many internal conflicts such as his fear of running away, fear of being ridiculed, and fear that the rest of the regiment will believe that he ran away. Henry is afraid he will run away when the battle starts.  He also is afraid that while walking in a train full of wounded soldiers he will be made fun of for not being wounded.  Henry also has the fear that when he returns to his regiment they will believe that he ran away like a coward.  Fleming has several external conflicts like telling the truth about how he was wounded, the truth about how he got separated from his regiment, and his problem of leading the charge as he was asked.

Henry must tell the men how he was wounded by a Union soldier instead of a bullet.  He also needed to tell the regiment how he ran away from his regiment in the battle.  Fleming is having a problem of wanting to lead the charge as he was asked and not run away.  Henry experiences different moods throughout the novel such as pain and suffering, errieness of the forest, and the feeling that he gets when he sees the dead soldier.  Fleming finds that pain and suffering are everywhere on the battlefield.  He also gets an errie feeling while he is running through the forest when everything goes silent.  Henry gains the feeling of vulnerability when he finds the dead soldier.  All of these conflicts and feelings that Henry encounters mold and shape him into the man he is to become.

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