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The Red Badge of Courage

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The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage, by Steven Crane, has been proclaimed one of the greatest war novels of all time. It is a story that realistically depicts the American Civil War through the eyes of Henry Fleming, an ordinary farm boy who decides to become a soldier. Henry, who is fighting for the Union, is very determined to become a hero, and the story depicts Henrys voyage from being a young coward, to a brave man. This voyage is the classic trip from innocence to experience.

The story starts out with a heated debate between the soldiers. One boy had heard a rumor that the regiment would be moving on to fight a battle the next day. Some of the soldiers agree with this boy, while others think that their regiment will never partake in a real battle. While watching this argument, Henry, the protagonist, decides that he would rather go lay down and think rather then take part in the heated argument between the soldiers. Henry, a simple farm boy, is rather excited when he hears the rumor that they will be fighting soon. It had always been a dream of his to fight in a war, and become a hero, and now his dream was coming true. Henry begins to think about what life was like before he entered the army, and remembers the stories of war he has heard from old veterans. This flashback is very effective in showing how his previous experiences have affected his thoughts on war now. It is blatantly obvious that he is afraid that he will not be able to withstand the pressures of a battle. He keeps telling himself that if he wants to become a hero, he can not run away. He must stick out the battle with the rest of his comrades. While marching along, Henry sees the first corpse he has ever seen. He shows pity for the man, because the dead man had died in such poor conditions. The souls of his shoes were worn bare. When Henry sees the corpse, he begins to wonder if his generals actually know what they are doing. He thinks that the generals are leading him right into a trap, right into the middle of the rebels.

Henry deals with his fear of battle by acting arrogant. He acts as if he has been in a thousand battles, and complains about the walking, even though the reader knows that he would rather be walking forever then go to battle at this point in time. It shows one of Henry's defense mechanisms, how he uses his arrogance to hide his innocence.

Regiment 304 moves on to battle the next day. Henry becomes very scared, but is too proud to talk to any of the others soldiers about his fears. All the soldiers are very anxious to fight in the war, and Tom and Henry talk about how they are not going to run away from war, and how they want to become big time war heroes. This is ironic, because in the end of the book their wishes come true. When the battle starts, all the soldiers get very anxious and nervous. Tom and Henry don't turn out to be as brave as they think that they could be. While hiding, Tom finds Henry, and gives him a manila envelope of letters for his family. Tom believes that this will be his first and his last battle. Henry ends up fulfilling his worst nightmare. Instead of sticking out the battle with the rest of his regiment, he hides behind some brush in order to spare himself from dying. He listens in on the battle, and to much of his surprise, he hears cheering from what's left of his regiment. He then takes off into the woods in anger. While running through the woods his conscience begins to speak to him. His conscience calls him a coward, and a deserter. Out of guilt, Henry runs back to the battle site, and meets again with his regiment. These actions showed Henry's maturity, and desire to be a war hero.

When Henry meets up his regiment and older tattered man begins to have a discussion with him. The old man asks Henry "where yeh hit, ol' boy?" meaning, where he got shot. With massive feelings of guilt, Henry shrugs away from the man and runs back into the woods. From behind a tree, he looks at all the wounded soldiers. "At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He conceived persons with torn bodies to be particularly happy. He wished that he, too had a wound, a red badge of courage" This shows Henrys desire to be a wounded war hero. He does not want to be set apart from the other boys as a coward. As soon as the old soldier passed him, he went back to the lines and continued on with the boys. He starts walking next to Jim Conklin, a soldier that he knew pretty well. They are talking, when all of a sudden Jim runs away. He falls onto the ground and dies. This death has a very big affect on Henry. Jim was his first friend to be killed in battle. He feels guilty that

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