Red Badge of Courage
by Stephen Crane
"The Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane traces the
effects of war on a Union soldier, Henry Fleming, from his
dreams of soldiering, to his actual enlistment, and through
several battles of the Civil War.
Henry Fleming was not happy with his boring life on the
farm. He wanted to become a hero in war and have girls
loving him for his glorious achievements in battle. He knew
his mother would not like to see him go to war, but it was
his decision to make. He dreamed of the exciting battles of
war and the thrill of fighting glorious battles. He didn't
want to stay on the farm with nothing to do, so he made the
final decision to enlist.
After enlisting he finds himself just sitting around with
nothing to do. He manages to make friends with two other
soldiers, John Wilson and Jim Conklin. Wilson was as
excited about going to war as Henry, while Jim was
confident about the success of the new regiment. Henry
started to realize after a few days of marching, that their
regiment was just wandering aimlessly, going in circles,
like a vast blue demonstration. They kept marching on
without purpose, direction, or fighting. After a while,
Henry started to think about the battles in a different
way, a more mature way. He started to become afraid that he
might run from battle when duty calls. He felt like a
servant doing whatever his superiors told him.
When the regiment finally engages in a battle, Jim gives
Henry a little packet in a yellow envelope, telling Henry
that this will be his first and last battle. The regiment
managed to hold off the rebels for the first charge, but
then the rebels came back like machines of steel with
re-enforcements, driving the regiment back. One man started
to flee, then another, and another still. Henry was scared,
confused, and in a trance as he saw his forces depleating.
He finally got up and started running like a proverbial
chicken, who has lost the direction of safety.
After running away, Henry started rationalizing his
behavior. At first he feels he was a stupid coward for
running, then he feels he was just saving himself for
later. He felt nature didn't want him to die, even though
his side is losing. He believes he was intelligent for
running and hopes he will die in battle just for spite.
The same time Henry met Jim, he also met a tattered man. In
the next charge, Henry and the tattered man see Jim die a
slow, and painful death. After Jim's death, and a little
talking, Henry, though not realizing it, leaves the
tattered man alone on the battle field, hurting inside, and
dangerous to himself.
In the charge ahead, Henry starts asking the soldiers why
they are running. He grabbed a comrade by the arm and asked
the man "why- why-" not letting go of the man's arm. The
man hit Henry over the head with the butt of his rifle,
giving Henry his first Red Badge of Courage. Dazed, Henry
stumbles around the battle field struggling to stay on his
feet, until a cheery man comes around and helps Henry to
get back to his regiment.
When he returns, he confronts Wilson and has his wound on
his head bandaged. After a short rest he again gets back
into battle. After the regiment lost that battle, the
generals had the regiment marching again. Henry felt the
generals were a lot of "lunkheads" for making them retreat
instead of confronting the enemy.
Henry begins to feel that, he and Wilson, are going to die,
but goes to battle anyway. In battle, Henry began to fume
with rage and exhaustion. He had a wild hate for the
relentless foe. He was not going to be badgered of his
life, like a kitten chased by boys. He felt that he and his
companions were being taunted and derided from sincere
convictions that they were poor and puny.
In yet another battle, when Henry and Wilson get a chance
to carry their flag, they fight over who will retain the
flag. Wilson got the regiment flag, though later in battle
Henry manages to obtain the rebel flag. With the flag in
hand, he runs to the front of the line with the Lieutenant,
leading the way.
In battle he fought like a "Major General", though he did
regret leaving the tattered man alone on the battle field.
He has grown-up, and is no longer afraid of dying.
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