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Henry Flemming, an inexperienced soldier, is the main focus of Stephen Crane’s novel The Red Badge of Courage. Following the common misconception shared by many people of the time, in the beginning of the novel, Henry believes war is a place where one can become a hero, prove courage, and gain the honor and glory many can only dream of. Through the course of the novel we witness Henry’s view of war change as he is exposed to the true horrors it holds; as he is exposed to these horrors Henry undergoes changes mentally from being the coward that runs away from war, and eventually becomes a hero.
Henry is at a camp with his group, when a soldier comes and exclaims that the enemy was near; this was a false alarm, but the regiment would find themselves in the heat of battle very soon. When caught in the middle of the battle Henry runs in to the forest, fleeing the battle. While in the forest Henry finds a squirrel, which he throws a pinecone at, when the squirrel scurried away it led Henry to the conclusion that fleeing was a natural instinct. While leaving the woods Henry encounters a trail that wounded soldiers are using to relieve themselves from battle. One of the wounded soldiers confronted Henry, asking where he had been wounded. To avoid embarrassment Henry just ran away from this soldier. He then meets a friend of his, a soldier named, Jim. Henry realizes that Jim is wounded, Jim’s wounds are fatal and in a last try to avoid dying in front of a friend Jim runs into some bushes where Henry witnesses him die. This caused the change in Henry’s view on war to change; he no longer saw it as a glorious chance to become a hero, he saw the more gruesome side one can only witness in war itself. After Jim’s death Henry decides that wound is a red badge of courage. Henry leaves Jim and meets up with another one of his friends, whom he lies, about where he was, too. Henry’s change was evident in the next battle where he fought with machine like movements, shooting and reloading, shot after shot. A soldier stops Henry from shooting, telling him the enemy has begun retreating. This soldier calls Henry a hero; however Henry would not accept that.
Henry is preparing for the next battle; he realizes that no one in his group is expected to survive. In the battle Henry is able to carry the union flag; this made him a big target, but he carried it with pride anyway. Henry’s regiment, against all odds, was able to overpower the enemy making a successful defense, and winning the battle. After winning this battle Henry along with his regiment felt very accomplished. That caused Henry himself to realize that his view, and approach towards war has changed.
The Red Badge of Courage gives the reader great insight on the mental conflicts that soldiers were commonly exposed. We witnessed Henry being exposed to many negative aspects of war, but he also had many positive experiences. This book allowed a unique view of the civil war through a soldier’s eyes. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in learning about the civil war and the life of a soldier involved in it. There was excessive use of slang words in the dialogue between the characters; this made it hard to understand and to read at times. This book is a good example of how someone’s environment can have an impact on their views and attitude, towards many things. Aside from being written very bland and dry; and with the use of slang words possibly causing language conflicts; The Red Badge of Courage is a great book that is interesting and holds the possibility to appeals to a large group of people. I enjoyed the novel a lot and would recommend it to others.
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