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“Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane Essay

In the “Red Badge of Courage” Stephen Crane demonstrates the use of naturalism. The novel shows how Henry, a young union soldier, struggles with war and becoming a man. Henry joined the war because he wanted to experience the glory of fighting and winning. While Henry is in the wilderness, Crane uses nature as naturalism and makes nature a model for Henry’s acts. In “The Red Badge of Courage” there are many themes. One is learning to be a man. At the beginning of the novel Henry is at war with himself. He wants to have glory and be a war hero, but he is afraid that he will flee. He tries to prove to himself that he will not flee in battle. He feels alone because he can’t tell anyone about the doubt he has in order to not be made fun of. Henry decides he will not know whether or not he will run away until he actually gets to battle. When he goes to battle and flees in chapter seven, he throws a pinecone at a squirrel and decides that this was a sign from nature and that it is only natural for one to run away from danger. Another main theme in this learning the meaning of courage and finding your own.

In chapter one there is a flashback of Henry leaving for the Union Army. His mother gives him a speech and tells him no matter what he needs to do the right thing. This gives him a new meaning of the word courage. He learns that having the courage to do the right thing is just as important as having the courage to fight for what you believe in. I think Henry didn’t find his true courage until towards the end of the story. The sun ray coming through the cloud symbolizes Henry’s peace with himself. There are strengths and weaknesses of how Crane develops the theme. For example some strengths are how Crane used imagery to paint a clear picture in the reader’s head, when Henry went back to the battle more of a man, and how Crane’s use of wording showed how Henry’s perspective changes from being afraid to understanding and accepting who he is. A weaknesses Crane has is the grammar of the characters.

It tends to be confusing in some parts and I don’t find it reader friendly. On the contrary if he had taken away the awkward grammar it could have taken away from the overall story. Another weakness is the lack of detail in the setting. Naturalism relates to the theme of manhood because Henry was inexperienced and this was probably why he fled from the battle. Henry’s action and the conditions that surround him are consistent with this point of view because of the detailed revelations of Henry’s thoughts and his wide range of emotions, including fear, joy, doubts, and pride. The point of view is interesting because Crane wasn’t alive when the story took place, nor had he ever been in battle before writing the story.

At the beginning of the novel Henry is childish and afraid. He wants a reputation as a fierce warrior but, he is scared. As the story progresses, he learns more about himself and who he wants to be. He discovers that he is fighting for greater things than his reputation. At this point in the book the true Henry Fleming, a brave and courageous man, is revealed. To conclude, “The Red badge of Courage” is a great book about a young boy becoming a man. I think Crane got his point very well with his use of naturalism and imagery. I believe this book proves that true courage is not being brave, true courage is being terrified, but continuing to go anyways.


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