The red badge of Courage
The Red Badge of Courage, a novel by Stephen Crane, tells the story
of a young Union soldier, Henry Fleming, faced with the choice of risking his
life by fighting gallantly in war or risking his honor by running away. When
he goes to battle, his feet make the choice for him, taking him away from
combat. Eventually he joins the trail of injured soldiers marching toward the
makeshift hospital. On this trail, he converses with the wounded soldiers,
who help to change his opinions of himself and his situation. He soon
realizes that he is not the only man who fears armed confrontation, nor is he
the only soldier in history to have abandoned his unit. With his new
confidence, Henry decides to face his fears and go back to the fight. He
offers an excuse to his unit, which merely thought he had been injured,
explaining his absence. Henry then went on to fight bravely and carry the
flag for his unit. Soon, he heroically gets his much desired red badge of
The most important character of this novel is Henry Fleming. He is
best described as a naive young man from the north who sought the glory and
... others, and that is another true sign of bravery. Henry shows courage again in one of the last chapters we read. In ... a night of sleeping in a barn, Henry and Piani reunited with a group of soldiers. Suddenly two men from the battle ... police seize hold of Henry. Piani was led away, questioned ...
heroism of battle. To his dismay, he finds himself to be a coward. Through
his discussions with other soldiers, he learns that he still has a chance to
prove to himself that he can still be a hero. Two lesser characters are Jim
Conklin and Wilson. Conklin, often referred to as the tall soldier, was a close
friend of Henry’s whom he met upon enlistment. Henry nurses him when he
becomes injured. Wilson, often called the loud soldier, was also a friend of
Henry’s who at first is loud and obnoxious, but later is helpful and kind when
Henry is wounded.
This book is set during the Civil War, sometime between 1861 and
1865. The Civil War was fought between the United States of America
(north) and the Confederate States of America (south) over issues such as
slavery, economic differences, and political differences. Slavery was a hot
issue between the regions. The south was concerned that the newly elected
Lincoln was a threat to their much needed slavery system. Each region
economically differed from the other. The north was based on the factory
system, while the south was agricultural. Political views between the areas
split them further, with the north supporting a strong central government and
the south supporting a loose union of sovereign states. More than 600,000
lives were taken during the conflict, damaging over five million dollars in
goods and property, and freed over four million black slaves.
The theme of the book seems to be that it’s never to late to choose a
more honorable path. This is demonstrated best when Fleming, after
cowering from battle, returns to combat. The question of which path is the
best proves to be the youth’s major inner conflict throughout the novel. He
has an idealized view of war. He has the notion that war is glorious and
beautiful. When he is confronted with the reality of bloodshed, he sees
another side of war; one of death.
Stephen Crane uses colors as symbols all through the story. The two
most prevalent colors he uses are gray and red. Grey is used as a
representation of death. It is the color of the opposing side’s uniform as the
... extreme psychological problems. Due to the brutal nature of the war, soldiers ended up and were forced to kill many seemingly innocent ... these were extremely severe and terrible, as soldiers would lose a leg or ... of the body, handicapping soldiers. Also, the landmines used were very serious. If they did not cause death, the injuries caused by ...
reader discovers when Fleming “…perceived with dim amazement that their
uniforms were… light gray” (186).
It is also used to foreshadow death with
the mention of a “gray dawn” (67) on the morning of the battle. Most
noticeable of the ideas symbolized by gray are the images of dead bodies.
This is illustrated when the young man finds a deceased soldier in the woods
with gray skin wearing a once blue uniform fading to gray (101).
example of this is when Crane describes Jim Conklin moments before death,
saying, “His face turned to a semblance of gray paste” (112).
Fleming’s images of the components of war are most often red. The
war itself is described as being red, as is illustrated in this passage, saying
“…War, the red animal, war, the blood swollen god…” (130).
skirmishes are called a “crimson roar” because of the yelling and gunfire.
Red also represents the passion of a soldiers desire to fight as is shown when
Crane says that Fleming was in a “red rage… He wished to… strangle [the
enemy] with his fingers (85).” Finally, red symbolizes human blood and
injuries. This is best shown when Fleming realizes he too wants “a wound, a
red badge of courage” (110).
Despite the fact that Crane had a good idea for a story, this novel turns
out to be the driest and most boring book there is to be read. The Red Badge
of Courage does not hold enough true emotion of pity, anger, or sadness to
truly get across the severity of the Civil War. For these reasons, I do not
recommend this book to anyone in their right mind.