Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Red Badge of Courage: Adulthood

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The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane is about a young, small town farm boy, who enlists in the army to live his dreams of fighting in heroic wars. The novel traces his emotions and reactions as an inexperienced soldier. Henry is called the “youth” because he only knows war from his readings in war books and stories told by veterans. He is faced with a problem of whether or not he will fight or run when battles begin. If he expresses his emotions, he feels other soldiers will ridicule him. Henry is determined to become a man and come out of his “youth” stage. Through his struggles with courage, Henry battles to discover his adulthood.


In the beginning, Henry’s traits show that he is very inexperienced and doesn’t know much about war. (TS) For example, Henry has a romantic and glorious view of war due to his readings on sieges and marches. (CD) Henry knows very little of what war is really like and thinks it’s all about glory and fame. (CM) He is not mature enough to realize what the “real world” is actually like, and that war is not so magnificent. (CM) In addition, when Henry sees the injured soldiers, he feels that they are heroes and “wished that he, too, had a wound, a little red badge of courage.” (P.61)(CD) All Henry cares about is himself and wants to be a hero by showing everyone his strength from a wound. (CM) He is still a childish “youth” that has not faced his fears and continues to dream of how successful he wants to be. (CM) Because of Henry’s immaturity and lack of war experience, he has a fantasy view of war as a glamorous experience. (CS)


Later in Henry’s adventure, he finds himself becoming more and more mature as he fights in battles and reflects over his past. (TS) For example, from the knowledge of is previous mistakes, such as running from battle, and after being called a “mule driver” by an insulting general, Henry fights with fury and bravery. (P.116)(CD) His maturation shows that he can forget his past and that he has the self-esteem to accept the insult. (CM) Henry has grown up to the point where he realizes that he can learn from his mistakes and that he can face his fears. (CM) Furthermore, at the end of the novel, Henry felt a “quiet manhood, non-assertive but sturdy and strong blood…He was a man.” (P.154)(CD) Henry now views himself quite differently from when he was an inexperienced soldier, and now feels that he has developed into a man of honor and courage. (CM) He is able to reflect on his life honestly and lets all of his mistakes make an impact on him. (CM) As Henry finally is starting to get over his selfishness and fears, he is becoming a more developed person.


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All Henry wanted to be at first was an honorable and successful soldier. He dreamt of having a glorious war experience. This all changed when he first went into battle and realized that it was not like his dreams. It was not just about getting wounded and having a “red badge of courage” to show his strength. Throughout the course of the novel, Henry changes from a tender youth to a ripe young man. He did this by confronting his cowardice and letting his past mistakes make him a better person. His attitude totally changes when he gets over his selfishness and thinks about others. Through new experiences and hardships, we all feel that we can grow up within ourselves by conquering our fears.





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