The Red Badge of Courage
Disregard for the Human Life in The Red Badge of Courage
War is a terrible, scary and unforgivable place where even the bravest of men tremble in fear. This is especially true for young Henry Fleming, the main character of The Red Badge of Courage. He undergoes the most change in the story, going from a cocky, romantic young man eager to experience the glory of war to a seasoned soldier who sees war as messy and tragic. Yes, war is messy but this is not the point. The more concerning matter is the complete disregard that humanity has for the human life.
It is fascinating how even at a young age we have been taught to admire war and the warriors it produces. Young men and women dream of the battlefield and the glory and honor that comes with it. All his life, Henry has dreamed of and longed to see battles, those ‘great affairs of the earth'(Crane, Stephen). The human life is something to be gambled with or that’s what humanity would like you to believe. If you lay down your life for someone else’s or for the greater good of your county then you will be honored and your family will be given wealth. I is absolutely a good moral code to fight for the good of others, but many people enjoy the fight. They like the conflict it brings or the profit it may afford them.
The world has made killing others in the name of greater good something that is ok. People somehow believe that violence should be fixed with more violence. God says to turn the other check. That doesn’t mean to literally turn the other check if someone hits you. It means that forgiveness and love needs to be more powerful than the hatred for others. Humanity would be so much more if we would learn to love each other as Jesus loved us. Since recorded history, from the shores of ancient Troy to the jungles of Vietnam, mankind has been engaged in the act of creating suffering and slaughter in an orchestrated manner, often on a grand scale.(Huff) War has become a tradition of human life. Ever since Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit there has been conflict and sin in the world and it will continue to be like that until Jesus returns and sets up his kingdom here on Earth.
“The Red Badge of Courage has been celebrated for its vivid portrait of both the physical action of battle and for the psychological realism of the protagonists internal struggle to control his fear, regulate his fantasies, and live up to the heroism he had earlier imagined”(Grandy). This book does a great job at portraying the horrific effects of war. The world has created so many different and creative has to kill others. Death is a fundamental part of life, but the blatant disregard that humanity has for the human life is horrific.
All and all war is a horrible place and humans do things for the ones they love, their countries, pride, honor, and wealth. Humanity has a complete disregard for the human life. Generals risk soldiers, mothers risk sons, and daughters risk fathers all for the so called greater good. The Red Badge of Courage is a great book that depicts an awesome story the tells the true horrors and glories of war.
- Alotaibi, H. (n.d.). The Power of Society in The Red Badge Of Courage. Retrieved January 12, 2018, from https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi referer=&httpsredir=1&article=1708&context=etdarchive
- Grandy, B. (2016, February 17). The Red Badge of Courage Journal. Retrieved January 30, 2018, from https://engl160101sp2016.courses.bucknell.edu/2016/02/17/the-red-badge-of-courage-journal/
- Huff, G. M. (n.d.). War Beyond Romance: The Red Badge of Courage and Other Considerations. Retrieved January 30, 2018, from http://teachersinstitute.yale.edu/curriculum/units/1987/2/87.02.08.x.html. ‘[Henry’s] mind took a mechanical but firm impression, so that afterward everything was pictured and explained to him, save why he himself was there.’. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2018, from http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/crane/images/section3.html
- Jr., J. A. (2011, September 21). Searching for a War of One’s Own: Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage, and the Glorious Burden of the Civil War Veteran. Retrieved January 30, 2018, from https://muse.jhu.edu/article/450462/pdf
- Kiely, D. O. (2009, April 30). Casualties of War: Combat Trauma and the Return of the Combat Veteran. Retrieved January 30, 2018, from https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ839118
- Msila, A. (n.d.). Henry Fleming’s Psychological Development. Retrieved January 30, 2018, from http://www.academia.edu/10227828/Henry_Flemings_Psychological_Development
Symbolism in The Red Badge of Courage
In the novel Stephen Crane uses religious symbolism to convey how Henry’s experiences as a soldier are not relatable to people who are not soldiers and are seen as a spiritual experience. Crane uses religious symbolism through Henry’s surroundings. After Henry runs away from the battle he goes into the forest and “At length he reached a place where the high, arching boughs made a chapel. He softly pushed the green doors aside and entered. … There was a religious half light” (Crane 65). By describing the forest as a chapel and a place of “religious peace” shows how Henry is able to connect with the Nature at a spiritual level (64). During the war, Henry feels alone because nobody can understand what he is feeling and experiencing. Religious symbolism is used to show how Henry finds solace in God and church during the times of hardship. During one of the last battles while the soldiers are fighting there is a “stillness … hush was solemn and churchlike, save for a distant battery” which creates a brief peaceful mood (169). By describing the silence as “churchlike” shows how the church is represented as a place of peace (169). In the midst of the fighting the silence is seen as a gift from God according to Henry. Religious symbolism is used to show how Henry is able to relate his experiences of war to God and his religion.
The Meaning of the “Red Badge” of Courage
The “red badge” of courage is a bloody wound that soldiers will receive when they fight bravely. The “red badge” represents bravery and courage that the soldiers earn by risking their lives in battle. When Henry comes into the crowd of injured soldiers he observes, “ he was amid wounds. The mob of men was bleeding… He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage” showing how wounds represent courage (74). When the soldiers are wounded and suffering they have demonstrated their bravery and have earned the “red badge” of courage. By having a “red badge” the soldiers have proved that they did not run from battle and are courageous.
Henry’s Need for a “Red Badge” of Courage
Henry needs a “red badge” of courage because he feels as if he is not brave and has no courage. A “red badge” of courage is seen as a bloody wound earned by those who are courageous. When on his way to the camp after he enlisted, “ his spirit had soared. The regiment was fed and caressed at station after station until the youth had believed that he must be a hero” explaining how the war was glorified (10). Henry wanted to enlist in the war because he wanted to feel like a hero. However, he struggles with whether he will fight in war or whether he will run despite his high spirits on his way to camp. Henry needs the “red badge”of courage to prove to himself that he made the right choice by deciding to enlist in the war. After running from the battle Henry mixes in with a group of injured soldiers coming out of battle and “…, he was amid wounds…At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He conceived persons with torn bodies to be peculiarly happy” which explains Henry’s desire for a “red badge” of courage (74). He is jealous of those who are wounded because they have already shown their bravery. Henry feels as if all his insecurities about fighting in the battle will go away if he is wounded from battle. Henry needs a “red badge” of courage to relieve his anxiety and prove to himself that he belongs in the war.
The Names of Characters
The characters are given descriptive names to show that the soldiers names are insignificant compared to the soldiers risking their lives everyday during war. All of the characters still have unique traits which is why they are given names such as “the loud soldier”, “the tall soldier”, “the youth”, “the lieutenant”, and “the colonel”. For instance, Wilson is given the name of “the loud soldier”. He “often convulsed whole files by his biting sarcasm aimed at the tall one” which conveys his arrogant and assertive nature (22). Wilson always says what is on his mind and is confident in his fighting abilities making him appear “loud”. Jim Conklin is known as “the tall soldier” who tells the soldiers a rumor that they will move from their camp and “felt called upon to defend the truth of a rumor he himself had introduced” (4). Jim is known as “the tall soldier” because he catches all of the soldiers attention when telling them about the rumor. He is also more mature than the rest of the soldiers and is not afraid to admit that he might run, showing how he may be older and therefore appears taller than the other soldiers. Henry is named “the youth” to show his innocence. While waiting for battle Henry realises, “ He was an unknown quantity. He saw that he would again be obliged to experiment as he had in early youth” emphasizing how Henry is still a young soldier and is still figuring his personality and whether he will run in battle or not (13). Lieutenant Hasbrouck known usually as “the lieutenant” is given the name to emphasize his skill and experience as a soldier compared to Henry and Wilson. During the first charge the lieutenant gets shot in the hand and “He held the wounded member carefully away from his side so that the blood would not drip upon his trousers” which shows his valor (41). Lieutenant Hasbrouck is a courageous leader and represents the soldier Henry wants to become which is why his name emphasises his higher status in the army. Colonel MacChesney is given the name of “the colonel” to show his leadership over the other soldiers. When the general is criticizing Henry’s regiment Colonel MacChesney speaks up, “‘Oh, well, general, we went as far as we could’ he said calmly” displaying his higher rank by replying directly to the General (162). The characters of the novel are given descriptive names that are used throughout the novel rather than their actual names because each soldier has a distinct personality that is shown through their descriptive names.
What Does Henry Learn of Courage?
From the tall soldier, Henry learns that inorder to be courageous one has to sacrifice. When the tall soldier dies, “His [Henry’s] face had been twisted into an expression of every agony he had imagined for his friend” and Henry realizes the horrifying reality of war (80). Henry realises that inorder to earn glory and courage in war one must risk their life. When Henry meets the tattered man he is eager to talk about the fight and “He breathed a deep breath of humble admiration. He had looked at the youth for encouragement several times” showing how although he fought and earned his “red badge” of courage he still remains modest (73). From the tattered man, Henry learns that with being courageous one also must remain humble. The kind man helps Henry return home and “In the search which followed, the man of the cheery voice seemed to the youth to possess a wand of a magic kind” because of his selfless actions (101). Henry feels as if the kind man is a magician that is helping him. The kind man teaches Henry that if one wants to be courageous one must also be selfless and help others.
Wilson and Henry
Wilson and Henry share various similarities in the beginning of the novel. For instance, both Henry and Wilson are both inexperienced soldiers in the war. When the tall soldier explains the rumor he heard about the regiment moving “The youth was in a trance of astonishment. So they were at last going to fight” showing Henry’s innocence because he cannot believe they are finally going to fight (6). Similarly, when Wilson “launched then into the subject of the anticipated fight” showing his excitement to fight in battle (24). They both are excited to fight in the battle in hope of becoming a hero. They both joined the war in hopes of earning a “red badge” of courage and getting glory. However, although both Wilson and Henry are inexperienced Wilson is confident in his abilities whereas Henry is not confident. When Henry asks Wilson about how he will do in the battle he says, “‘I don’t know. I s’pose I’ll do as well as the rest. I’m going to try like thunder’ He evidently complimented himself upon the modesty of this statement” because he does not have any doubts that he will run (25). Contrarily, Henry “ walked along in careless line he was engaged with his own eternal debate” on whether he will run during the battle or not (21-22). Wilson is known as the “loud soldier” because of his brashness and confidence whereas Henry is known as the “quiet soldier” because he is always thinking about his fears.
The Difference between the Leader of the Battle and the Common Soldiers
By contrasting the leaders of the battle and the common soldiers mannerisms during battle Crane shows how each group views the battle differently. The leaders of the battle view the battles like a game. On the other hand, the soldiers view the battle only thinking about themselves and whether they will die or not. Henry and Wilson overhear officer talking to the general saying , “‘…, But there’s th’ 304th. They fight like a lot ’a mule drivers. I can spare them best of any’” when they are building a strategy on how to ward off the enemy (140). The leaders of the battle do not care if soldiers die while fighting. They treat the war as a game that they need to win. They view Henry’s regiment as one entity and do not see the individual soldiers who are risking their lives. Once Henry hears this “the most startling thing was to learn suddenly he was very insignificant” because whether he dies or not in the battle does not make a difference to the battle leaders (140). Henry constantly thinks about his fears and doubts of running during battle like many other common soldiers think but the battle leaders only see the regiment as one group of soldiers and it does not matter if they die or not.
The Use of Animals as Symbols
In the novel, Crane uses animals to symbolize the Union and Confederate sides during battle. When Henry is observing the lines of troops he sees them “like two serpents crawling from the cavern of the night” (21). By describing the troops as serpents shows how during war the soldiers are perceived as vicious animals. Henry observes the Confederate soldiers as “dragons were coming with invincible strides. The army, helpless in the matted thickets … War, the red animal, war, the blood-swollen god, would have bloated fill” (94). By comparing the enemy to dragons shows that Henry feels the soldiers are not humans anymore because they are willing to kill and injure the enemy. Animals are used to represent how the soldiers transform during battle. War is described as a “red animal” to emphasize that war is not fought by humans it is fought by animals (94). Animal symbolism adds to the novel’s meaning because it develops the theme of the natural world. Nature is unaffected by its surroundings and disregards the war and the soldiers lying dead. By comparing the soldiers to animals shows that they transform into a part of the natural world during war and disregard suffering humans and are only focused on killing the enemy.
Stephen Crane’s Style in Maggie: a Girl of the Streets and The Red Badge of Courage
Stephen Crane, a realist author in the 1860’s, wrote many popular short stories in an emerging literary disruption from transcendentalism to naturalism. As one of many pioneers of this new literary technique, Stephan Crane diverged from the typical and familiar prose of romanticism and transcendentalism through unique characteristics that made him a distinctive naturalist author. By into the history and writing style Stephen Crane adopted and literary devices he used, what can be seen as Stephen Crane’s individuality depicted in his poetry throughout this literary period?
To analyse an author’s works, one must look at the period before his writing style to see the difference between focuses, and the reason behind it. Romanticism’s focal points were emotion, freedom, and imagination that engendered a sense of individualism. Romanticism, in part, was a rejection of the bleak reality and reasoning of the time. It divulged the concept of non-religious reverence and feelings of emotion that were gleaned from senses as opposed to the inner guidance of right and wrong that emerged from the transcendentalist movement. Transcendentalism exposed the idea of personal relationships with God through experiences in nature, and the belief in a universal, moral right and wrong. This literary movement lasted until around 1860, when realism and naturalism – an extreme form of realism – began to emerge. The transition from transcendentalism to naturalism occured, and the theme of nature shifted from godly attributes and heavenly divination found in aspect of the physical world to determinism- that forces outside of man’s scope is shaping human-kind into roles in life that they cannot escape. In naturalism, nature is a force to withstand, endure, and only the fittest survive, those being the ones that did not overstep their bounds set in place by nature. Realists, in naturalism and realism, wrote using slang and language of commonfolk, deviating from the traditional writing style with the use of informal words that portrayed the grim reality it helped describe. Stephen Crane was one such naturalist writer who used this technique in his short story “Maggie: a Girl of the Streets”. Alluding to the main characters distancing themselves from responsibilities and duties in their lives, Stephen Crane suggests that trials, unlike the positive, encouraging trait in romanticism and transcendentalism where people’s backs bend but are then made stronger, people’s backs break in real life, and sometimes they can’t overcome their challenges. Through his word choice in “Maggie: a Girl of the Streets”, Stehpen Crane portrayed Mr. Johnson as disillusioned, when he said in a drunken outburst, “My home, reg’lar livin’ hell! Damndes’ place! Reg’lar hell!” Here, Stephen Crane is unique from the rest of naturalist writers in that he is not implying that Mr. Johnson drinks every night because he is tempted by the alcohol – which was a major part of naturalism at the time- but that it numbed the injured pride and dissatisfaction of his life. It was a way for him to forget the poverty he could not escape. He was not living a good life, but simply suffering through, which as a theme of naturalism Stephen Crane employed to show the inevitability and struggle of life. This fatalistic view portrays the mental degradation that accompanies the physical degradation of poverty (Donald Pizer).
Stephen Crane delves deeper into the symbolism and naturalistic point of view in his short novel “Maggie: a Girl of the Streets”, where a young girl living in the slums is introduced to the viles of her situation, driven into seduction after falling for a “Bowery” and ultimately prostitution,where she later jumps off a bridge, taking her own life. Stephen Crane chose the slums as his setting to highlight is as a breeding ground of immorality and violence (Donald Pizer). His interest and opinion of slum life can be contributed to his time spent working as a New York City reporter where his exposure to the poverty-stricken areas of the city would provide inspiration for his later works. This setting for “Maggie” was designed to imply the culture of alcoholic consumption, premarital sex, and low self esteem which was common in the slums of that day. Stephen Crane’s “Maggie” was different than the typical slum stories of his times because throughout his work he is highlighting the fact the slums aren’t about immorality. The reason people live in the slums is because they succumb to their temptations, but people are content with the situation because their injured pride and low self esteem resign them to their fate (Donald Pizer). Stephen Crane’s early work is heavily laden with themes of naturalism where he invokes the concept of natural forces that neither help or enlighten man. In the very beginning of “Maggie: a Girl of the Streets”, there is a street fight between gangs of little boys, named “Rum Alley” and “Devil’s Row”. Crane uses descriptive yet succinct words to describe the scene, condensing this short story into only about 20,000 words. The violence exhibited by the young children manifests the horrid social corruption, but also the animalistic struggle of the slums beginning from an early age – survival of the fittest is the evident theme. Crane again dramatizes the concept of a group of people reduced to their animalistic instincts, now caught and serving time in prison when he writes, “Over on the Island, a worm of yellow convicts came from the shadow of a grey ominous building and crawled slowly along the river’s bank.” The author sets up the plot using naturalist methods and styles to get the point across that man is in a constant struggle with human nature and the forces of nature as an adversary and foe. Stephen Crane does this through his elaborate description of the setting of the slums and paints a vivid picture of the depravity in which this novel takes place, but does this with brevity which leaves a sense of rigid structure the characters can never escape. By narrating the desensitization of man to violence, Stephen Crane, in a “curiously asocial perspective”, demonstrates those living in poverty have grown accustomed to the trevails in life (Jean Cazemajou). They have given up being better, striving, or achieving more, like Jimmie, in “Maggie: a Street Girl”, whose “eyes were hardened at an early age. He became a young man of leather. He studied human nature in the gutter, and found it no worse than he thought he had reason to believe it. He never conceived a respect for the world, because he had begun with no idols that it had smashed.”(Jean Cazemajou). By providing readers with an understanding of Jimmie’s mindset, Stephen Crane pushes the concept of determinism, a branch of naturalism, that says people should expect the worst so they are never let down, they should not be expectant of better things to develop, and be accepting of their fate. He further pushes this concept when Pete was yielding to his destiny “When he said, ‘Ah, what deh hell,’ his voice was burdened with disdain for the inevitable and contempt for anything that fate might compel him to endure.” Stephen Crane ties together the theme that everyone has a place in nature’s web, and only those who shake the web in order to try to better themselves fail. Throughout the whole of “Maggie”, Stephen Crane slowly transitions from naturalism towards realism, as the main character gradually transforms into a carnal creature forced to become a prostitute due to her circumstances. The realist view is that fate is a foregone conclusion, and Stephen Crane showcases this as the inaction of those around Maggie, resigned to their fate long ago and unwilling to fight for Maggie’s future which, in their mind, is already set in stone. Further illuminating this resignation, Stephen Crane weaves the lie in her brother Jimmie’s heart, that “he himself occupied a down-trodden position which had a private but distinct element of grandeur in its isolation.” (Robert Myers). Stephen Crane paints a picture of Maggie, who is determined to do something better with her life and get out of the dregs of poverty, a place where nature has put her. Though as Crane delves deeper into the story he reveals her fiery determination diminishes to resignation. Through his writing style, Crane paints a picture of his short story to show that the situation of the main character is drawn away from the outward perspective looking inward, to encouraging the reader to step into the story through the use of common folk words and colloquialisms. As noted above, this writing style is gradually lost as it changes imperceptibly to focus on realism.
In another one of Stephen Crane’s short stories, “The Red Badge of Courage”, the author in his characteristic brevity, makes the chapters of the story short to elicit a sense of snapshots being taken throughout the main character’s journey. The brief yet vivid description of war scenes and soldier’s responses to battle is characteristic of real experiences in war that soldiers identified with, though Stephen Crane never saw real battle before writing this work. The main character, named Henry Fleming, is a young farm boy with a fanasticial view of the war and battles, but Stephen Crane throughout this short story doesn’t develop the main character just like he didn’t with the main character in “Maggie”. In “The Red Badge of Courage” he formulates in the minds of his readers that man is not so different from beast: “A man…who up to this time had been working feverishly at his rifle suddenly stopped and ran with howls…there was no shame in his face. He ran like a rabbit” (John McDermott). In Stephen Crane’s writings a common thread like this is characteristic of naturalist workings, as his main characters and essentially man, revert back to their animal instincts and desires falling into their basic or carnal temptations. Crane demonstrates his characters not only stop developing, but many times regress as human beings. Stephen Crane delves into the mindset of Henry who “felt triumphant…There was the law, he said. Nature had given him a sign. The squirrel, immediately upon recognizing danger, had taken to his legs without ado. He did not stand stolidly baring his fully belly to the middle, and die with an upward glance at the sympathetic heavens. On the contrary, he had fled as fast as his legs could carry him; he was but an ordinary squirrel, too-”.
The character makes amends and excuses for his cowardice and instinct to run through his comparison to beast-like creatures. He, like them, followed his baser instincts that screamed survival of the fittest. By telling himself that simple creatures do the same and they are smart for it, Henry Fleming becomes a thread of nature’s tapestry by regressing from civilized, thoughtful human to an instinctual, mindless creature. Nature is put in opposition to man in description to juxtapose the serene yet violently powerful role that nature takes in determining the lives of Henry Fleming and Maggie, and it’s unassuming strength when the main characters are naive. When Henry has experienced battle and ‘become a man’(John Casey), Stephen Crane develops the characters just enough for Henry to compare himself to other creatures of nature whose destinies are determined by mother nature. Henry, at least as a subconscious level, knows his fate is out of his hands just like “the squirrel”, further cementing the concept of naturalism that Stephen Crane develops throughout ‘The Red Badge of Courage’. Henry Fleming continues on in his journey and returns to camp, where he is greeted with joyous return as his comrades did not know he had fled the battle. Having received a wound from friendly fire, but making the assumption he got it in a victorious fight, Fleming hides his cowardice. In the next battle, though, he remains at the scene of the battle and fights back against his enemies with beast-like savagery and strength, which he is commended on by his commanding officer. Here, where his character doesn’t flee but fights, Stephen Crane seems to question the “survival of the fittest” theme bursting through the pages as the other side of this motto is explored and exposed for the readers to ponder: which action, fleeing or fighting, is the best option for survival?
The thoughts of both Maggie and Henry are shown throughout their experiences, but never change or develop as they live through their trials to become better – both Henry and Maggie end up becoming accustomed to the violence of their situations, and are content with just surviving where they are at. In addition to an unorthodox plot, Stephen Crane employs detailed description of the natural landscape in contrast to man’s predicament:
“The shells, which had ceased to trouble the regiment for a time, came swirling again, and exploded in the grass or among the leaves of the trees.”
He does this with a naturalist view point that develops the concept man is in a struggle with a constant and violent nature, in contrast to it’s beautiful, unassuming features. Stephen Crane, in using comparisons of the natural world to man’s creations, creates a sense of destruction, where “shells… looked to be strange war flowers bursting into fierce bloom”, and produced destruction in its wake, like the way nature destroys itself. The difference between the two, though, is that nature is reborn through destruction. Man does not have that luxury and thus nature is a superior force because man is forever destined to struggle and eventually lose. As the dawn breaks over the sky on Henry’s final day of battle, he is impervious to the beauty and simple pleasure from his surroundings, as his ability to appreciate the morning rays shows his numbed emotion, like the poor people in”Maggie” who are used to or numbed to the violence and disgusting situations they live in.
In both “Maggie: a Girl of the Streets” and “The Red Badge of Courage”, there are instances where supposedly enlightened people regress back to their animalistic urges, which is counterproductive to the development of society or the main characters. Stephen Crane uses these concepts to demonstrate the main theme and concept of his whole writing style that man is part of nature and are creatures that succumb to ungodly traits because of the imperfectuality of man’s nature. Stephen Crane uses these devices, some unique- in “Maggie: a Girl of the Streets” targeting the question about the underworkings of the slums to be temptation or injured pride and self pity – and some characteristic of the realist writing style of the time to create unique pieces of work.
The Red Badge of Courage As a Representation Of American RealisO
Historical evolution of literary periods catalyzed significant shifts of schools of thoughts in literature over the centuries culminating into a wave Realism in the late 19th century. American Realism movement interconnects through a wide web of artistic representations transcending from absolute rejection of Romanticism in fields of art and literature. In this new dimension, the conception of characters and subjects of literature are independent of secular and empirical rules imposing moral linguistic beliefs limiting the operational space of writers and artists (JOHANNINGSMEIER, 2015, p. 48). This literary analysis essay will interpret the text, “The Red Badge of Courage” to show stylistic devices and techniques of American realism as used in the texts written in the early years after the civil war to objectively depict the true nature human nature as not being ideal but flawed with a potential to adapt and improve. The analysis supports sentiments of American realism which are justifiable attesting that romanticism is an illusion deserving rejection in totality by art and literature. In its quest to transform the mythical symbolism, idealistic attributes and supernatural characteristics unattainable by human characters in real life used by romanticism, realism objectively seeks to ontologically discover the truth and faithfully represent it without interpretation to alter its reality. George Parsons views the concept as, “Realism sets itself at work to consider characters and events which are apparently the most ordinary and uninteresting, to extract from these their full value and true meaning. It would apprehend in all particulars the connection between the familiar and the extraordinary, and the seen and unseen of human nature (“Realism in American Literature,” n.d.).” The representation denotes a particular subject reflected in the real world such the middle class in America. The accuracy of the image is dependent on the memory of real experiences as they occurred and not the product of imagination.
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane retells the story of the civil war in through the eyes of an ordinary soldier. It creates a new spectrum of truth in literary realism period by using various styles, devices, and approaches incorporated in Realism literature (Levenson, n.d., p. 161). The element of truth is evident in the text in the various scenes recounting major events of the war. The writer narrates real experiences of soldiers as in chapter four, he indetail describes a fierce exchange of fire between the armies when a lieutenant suffers a gunshot wound in hand. Tension grips the members of the squadron who fall into silence. In a quick development, the regiment just like in a real situation of war offers help by binding the wound. One of the key elements of America realism is an accurate representation of real life occurrences as shown in this section of the novel. The writer expresses genuine feelings of fear, tension, and despair of soldiers during the war. Pragmatism, one of the traditional forms of ‘naturalism’ that relates to realism in literature is evident in the text. In contrary to Romanticism which accords the characters ideal superhuman abilities, American realism represents human weakness but in a manner that shows determinism to overcome them. Flemming realizes changes in the personality of Wilson as the war advanced. He undergoes a transformation from self-pride and satisfaction in his younger years into a mature soldier sourcing inspiration from his purpose and natural abilities in life which he uses self-empower himself. Pragmatism is a dominant style in American literary realism.
The author uses ordinary people as the main characters of his work existing in pluralistic society. One of the philosophical viewpoints of realism in society is the concept of collectivity or belonging to a large group when faced with forces of nature such as war. In extreme sense of loss to these forces, individualism easily creeps in to replace the sense of ‘subtle sense of brotherhood.’ However, echoes the sentiments of realism that human being is parts of larger organism of society, “a mysterious fraternity born of the smoke and danger of death”(p.31) The presentation of the main character in a way that is unideal mirrors American Idealism in literary work. He chooses to desert his fellow band members at a critical moment when he senses defeat. “He, too, threw down his gun and fled. There was no shame in his face. He ran like a rabbit.” (p. 37). Stephen Crane throughout the text does an excellent job using functional literary devices of realism to dramatize the fundamental truths of the civil war objectively.
Literature is an authoritative source of psychological comfort and consolation and riddling it with conceptual schemes based on empirical rules undermine its purpose of motivating a sense action and improvements on individual strengths and weaknesses respectively. It should not be a tool for helping those facing challenges driven by social and economic changes escape their reality but in reality play a central role to empower their will power to face them to the point of overcoming them. The Red Badge of Courage is a testimony of the important strength of realistic literature in educating society on ways of discovering their courage to conquer desperation and hopelessness. Precisely, realism, as expressed in the text, extracts the full of human strengths and weakness if objectively applied without embellishment.
The Red Badge of Courage: Understanding Of Courage And Cowardice in Novel
In his novel, The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane presents his definition of the concepts of courage and cowardice. Henry, the main character in the book, often ponders these topics, revealing Crane’s definition of them. Before Henry even engages in combat, he starts to rationalize that he was forced into it. His fearful thoughts start to lead him down the path of cowardice. “It occurred to him that he had never wished to come to the war. He had not enlisted of his free will. He had been dragged by the merciless government. And now they were taking him out to be slaughtered” (p. 21). Later on, Henry flees from the regiment at the sound of firing. “He blanched like one who has come to the edge of a cliff at midnight and is suddenly made aware. There was a revelation. He, too, threw down his gun and fled. There was no shame in his face. He ran like a rabbit” (p. 39). Later, when Henry looks back on this incident he comes to the realization that his flight was displaying his cowardice. He is appalled by his cowardice and even compares it to a crime. “The youth cringed as if discovered in a crime…He had fled” (p. 43). However, Henry views courage in a different light. “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” (p. 52). Here, the author is saying that a wound or any injury received in battle is viewed as a sign of courage. Again Crane says, “He now thought that he wished he was dead. He believed that he envied those men whose bodies lay strewn over the grass of the fields and on the fallen leaves of the forest” (p. 60). Henry believes again that courage is injury or death in combat. Henry wants the honor of being known as courageous because he had fallen in battle. He continues to wish for this as he passes more bodies. “Again he thought that he wished he was dead. He believed that he envied a corpse…they might have been killed by lucky chances…yet they would receive laurel from tradition. He cried out bitterly that their crowns were stolen and their robes of glorious memories were shams. However, he still said that it was a great pity that he was not as they” (p. 65). Here Henry begins to realize that his definition of courage may not be entirely correct. He comprehends that those whom he may have viewed as courageous, could have been cowards who coincidentally became injured or killed. Although he somewhat realizes that his definition of courage is flawed, he still continues to yearn to be seen as this type of courageous.
C.S. Lewis’ definition of courage differs from Crane’s. As opposed to being able to see if someone is courageous by looking at the outside, courage should be viewed from a mental perspective. Lewis states that one’s actions in response to fear denote courage and cowardice. According to Lewis, if Henry was afraid of the gunfire and wanted to run away but resolved not to, then even if not injured or wounded or lost in battle, he would still have demonstrated courage. But if his fear led to flight, then this would exhibit his cowardice. At one point Screwtape says, “The Enemy permits a war or an earthquake or some other calamity, and at once courage becomes so obviously lovely and important even in human eyes that all our work is undone.” Screwtape makes clear that God allows misfortunate circumstances to occur in order that the virtue of courage might be demonstrated. James 1:2-3 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Screwtape also says, “…the Enemy and the courage the Enemy supplies…” This means that God is the provider and foundation of courageous actions. Lewis also states that courage is a very important virtue and one’s response to fear, if not courageous, but rather cowardly, could lead to other sin as well. “The more he fears, the more he will hate. And Hatred is also a great anodyne for shame. To make a deep wound in his charity, you should therefore first defeat his courage…courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point which means the point of highest reality.” ‘Courage is the testing point’ means that when fear presents itself, it is harder to act courageous than cowardly. It is easy to be a coward, but submitting to cowardice can lead to other sin, for example, hate. At the end of the ‘letter’ the character Screwtape says, “For remember, the act of cowardice is all that matters; the emotion of fear is, in itself, no sin and, though we enjoy it, does us no good.” This means that courage is not just doing something ‘brave’ in the eyes of others, but overcoming fear and continuing the appropriate action despite one’s fear.
A Main Message And Characters in The Red Badge Of Courage
The Red Badge of Courage is an account of the Civil Warin which Henry Fleming fights for the first time on the side of the Union army, leaving his mother and his farm to enlist. He is anxious for battle because he has heard many fantasies and joys about battle; this viewpoint will change as he fights. The main plot is the battle between the Union and the Confederates. During the first battle in which Henry fights, he fights decently, but during the second battle,he gets scared and runs away, battling his internal conflict; realizing that fighting the war may not be as great as it had sounded, while having mixed emotions of guilt and reason. Whilehe is wandering around in the forest, he finds out little bits and pieces of information from the war, which he is unsure who has won; he also finds a “tattered man”, and a group of wounded soldiers; among them is his good friend Jim Conklin, who dies from his battle wound. The climax occurs when Henry captures the Confederate flag; the resolution occurs when Henry and Wilson together lead their regiment to victory.Henry also reflects on his war experience and wonders if he is indeed a man of courage.
Henry Fleming: Henry Fleming, the protagonist of the novel, abandons his mother and his farm to enlist. He fights on the side of the Union army against the Confederates. He changes his character as the novel carries on. As the novel starts, he is a very naïve young man, but near the end of the novel, he He is a round character because he wants to experience battle, but once he enlists, he is not so sure if the experience is a good one.He is also a complex character beacause in the beginning of the novel, he is very eager to fight the battle, but near the end of the novel, Henry has changed into a young man.He is also a dynamic character because he is a changed man, from young and naïve to mature and understanding. During the first battle, he and his regiment fight well, but during the second battle, he gets intimidated and runs away from the battlefield and into a forest. As he wanders around, he sees many people and gets some information about the battle, which he is not sure who has won. He finds a bunch of wounded soldiers laying on the ground and one of them is his good friend, Jim Conklin. He also runs into a tattered soldier, whom Henry finds annoying. His internal conflictis facing his own fears by going back to the regiment and fighting the war. We see Henry’s inner thoughts, “There was the delirium that encounters despair and death, and is heedless and blind to the odds. It is a temporary but sublime absence of selfishness”.Near the end of the novel, he deserves his honor, that is courage, and finds that he has transformed into a man.
Wilson: Wilson, also a protagonist in this novel, is referred to as “the loud soldier”. He also changes a great deal during the course of the novel. In the beginning, he is very loud and talkative; when Henry comes back to the regiment, he has transformed into a quiet, caring person, which signifies that he is a roundand dynamiccharacter.He is also very boastful,“…and I didn’t say I was the bravest man in the world, neither. I said I was going to do my share of fighting — that’s what I said. And I am, too. Who are you, anyhow?You talk as if you thought you was Napoleon Bonaparte.”(26) When Henry comes back from wandering off, Wilsonshows compassion for him and offers his blanket, “Put ‘im t’ sleep in my blanket.”(104) This shows that Wilson is a complexcharacter; he is the soldier that he is and the compassionate person who cares for people. He is also more concerned with his inner thoughts than his reputation and his name. Wilson also helps Henry become a man. His asking of the envelope back from Henry symbolizesWilson’s mature state. At the end of the novel, when the two comrades capture the Confederate flag and raise the Union flag, it represents that they have both come a long way and can become men together, at last.
The Tattered Soldier: Henry meets “the tattered soldier”, another protagonist, while wandering through a mass of wounded soldiers. Henry finds him very irksome and garrulous. He tends to worry about superficial matters, such as Henry’s wound, which Henry doesn’t seem to care too much about. He is a very flat character because he doesn’t really know what is going on in the battle, who is winning. However, he is a complex character because he may seem like an annoying and talkative character, but he knows that Henry is hurting inside. All he wants is “some pea soup an’ a good bed.”(82) He refers to Henry as “Tom Jamison” who was a neighbor of the tattered soldier’s. Henry abandons him because of his nagging manner. The tattered soldier’s longing for friends suggests that he is not well fit for the brutal nature of the war. “…ain’t — ain’t right—it ain’t.”(85)
Jim Conklin: Another protagonist, Jim Conklin “the tall soldier” serves as a contrast to Henry; Jim is experienced and mature, whereas Henry is naïve and immature. he is a flatcharacter because throughout the novel, he never changes. He doesn’t digress into the fantasies of war, unlike Henry. He is still the leader of his regiment, and performs his task, never freaking out. When Henry asks Jim if he would run away, he says that he might run, if other people run away, which implies that he is a pragmatist. Jim is impatient of Wilson’s loudness and Henry’s foolishness,”Oh, shut up! You little fool. You little damn’ cuss. You ain’t had that there coat and them pants on for six months, and yet you talk as if —” (36) Jim is a stereotyped character because he is the typical calm and quiet man that he is. Jim is a calm and relaxed character throughout the novel, which makes him a static character. While he is at the verge of his death, he remains peaceful, “Leave me be — don’t tech me — leave me be.”(79) This shows that even when he is dying, he wants to die alone. Jim’s death symbolizes Henry’s development into a mature man.
Breaking the Mold: Gender Assumptions in The House of Mirth and The Red Badge of Courage
In Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth, protagonist Lily Bart is on a quest for happiness. In her case, happiness embodied in the image of marriage to a rich and indulgent husband and, subsequently, the ability to behave as a proper woman of society and culture should. However, when she attempts to lure this sort of husband into her traps, she is betrayed by high society and forced to reevaluate the value of herself as a woman. Similarly, in The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane’s character Henry Fleming is also striving to fulfill an idealized gender role – that of the courageous and valiant soldier – only to realize that the manhood the role demands is not quite of the type he had imagined. Both characters are faced with disillusionment and startling insights into the nature of their society on their respective paths of self-realization.
The reader is introduced to Lily in the midst of her pursuit of a husband. She bemoans her advancing age, noting that “[y]ounger and plainer girls had been married off by dozens, and she was nine-and-twenty, and still Miss Bart” (Wharton). Lily blames her failure to procure a husband on her inability to emulate society’s idealized woman. She questions herself:
Had she shown an undue eagerness for victory? Had she lacked patience, pliancy and dissimulation? Whether she charged herself with these faults or absolved herself from them, made no difference in the sum-total of her failure (Wharton).
Lily at no point in this self reproach pauses to consider that perhaps it is society’s expectations of her place and not her own flaws that are to blame for her present discontentment. Her eagerness to procure a place in it prevents her from forming any sort of negative critique of the society which expects her to be content with a life of marriage, parties, and gossip. In fact, for a woman of Lily’s moderate means, the demands of keeping up appearances in her desired circle pushes her into a world of financial and emotional uncertainty.
By borrowing money from a rich man, Lily inadvertently invites societal gossip as to the motivation behind his generosity and realizes “[…] for the first time that a woman’s dignity may cost more to keep up than her carriage; and that the maintenance of a moral attribute should be dependent on dollars and cents, made the world appear a more sordid place than she had conceived it” (Wharton). She slowly becomes more cynical towards her social environment, but it is the only world in which she knows how to function and as such, is difficult to abandon in entirety.
Lily does have occasional impulses to remove herself from such a demanding social system. At one point “[s]he was beginning to have fits of angry rebellion against fate, when she longed to drop out of the race and make an independent life for herself,” but even these small resistances come to no use, for after them Lily still resists breaking with her established lifestyle, and rejects her whimsical notion of an independent life in asking herself unhappily, “[b]ut what manner of life would it be?” (Wharton). Lily’s inability to align her impulses toward independence and freedom with the social concept that all a woman should desire is to be married to, and to be provided for by, a man of means, eventually land her in the depths of humiliation and poverty. In a conversation with Lawrence Selden she reveals that after speaking with him of personal freedom, she “saw [she] could never be happy with what had contented [her] before” (Wharton). She finally realizes the futility of attempting to mold herself to the desires of society. Lily makes a final speech to Selden in an attempt to redeem herself in his eyes. She says:
I have tried hard–but life is difficult, and I am a very useless person. I can hardly be said to have an independent existence. I was just a screw or a cog in the great machine I called life, and when I dropped out of it I found I was of no use anywhere else. What can one do when one finds that one only fits into one hole? (Wharton).
By living her entire life trying to fulfill the society’s expectations of the female sex, Lily has lost any other individual abilities which may have enabled her to break out of the pigeonhole in which her social environment has placed her.
As a male character, Henry Fleming has worked to achieve a very different set of assumptions and expectations. However, Henry’s ambition is, like Lily’s, motivated by a desire to attain the attention and approval of his society by himself emulating an idealized man – the strong, brave, and honorable soldier. Henry’s lack of manhood is emphasized by the way the narrator constantly refers to Henry as “the youth” (Crane). Henry dreams of the glory that the battlefield may bring and is intoxicated with the concept:
He had burned several times to enlist. Tales of great movements shook the land. They might not be distinctly Homeric, but there seemed to be much glory in them. He had read of marches, sieges, conflicts, and he had longed to see it all. His busy mind had drawn for him large pictures extravagant in color, lurid with breathless deeds (Crane).
Legends of wartime heroism, courage, and nerve have penetrated deep into Henry’s mind and he sees the possibility of claiming his manhood by crusading bravely on his country’s behalf. In war heroes, Henry sees all of the qualities of the era’s ideal male – strength, valor, stoicism, cunning – all of which contribute to the mystique of military life and convince Henry to finally enlist.
When Henry first sees battle, all his romantic notions are shattered. He fights well, but is shocked by the sheer visceral intensity of the commotion. He “conceded it to be impossible that he should ever become a hero. He was a craven loon. Those pictures of glory were piteous things. He groaned from his heart and went staggering off” (Crane). This disillusionment shatters Henry’s spirit at the time but at the end of his story, it is the relinquishment of his former ideals which most cement his manhood. He has been humbled by war and death and has realized that the ideal is not always as idyllic as it appears. Henry’s moment of epiphany comes as he “found that he could look back upon the brass and bombast of his earlier gospels and see them truly. He was gleeful when he discovered that he now despised them” (Crane).
Both Lily and Henry begin their stories by aspiring to societally idealized gender roles and in the end realize the futility of attempting to attain a romanticized version of gender perfection. The journey to self-realization often, it appears, must begin with knowledge that there exists an actual self in separation from the role that society dictates.
The Statue off its Pedestal: Stephen Crane’s Notions of Heroism
The world of Stephen Crane’s fiction is a cruel, lonely place. Man’s environment shows no sympathy or concern for man; in the midst of a battle in The Red Badge of Courage “Nature had gone tranquilly on with her golden process in the midst of so much devilment” (89). Crane frequently anthropomorphizes the natural world and turns it into an agent actively working against the survival of man. From the beginning of “The Open Boat” the waves are seen as “wrongfully and barbarously abrupt and tall” (225) as if the waves themselves had murderous intent. During battle in The Red Badge of Courage the trees of the forest stretched out before Henry and “forbade him to pass. After its previous hostility this new resistance of the forest filled him with a fine bitterness” (104). More omnipresent than the mortal sense of opposition to nature, however, is the mortal sense of opposition to other men. Crane portrays the Darwinian struggle of men as forcing one man against another, not only for the preservation of one’s life, but also the preservation of one’s sense of self-worth. Henry finds hope for escape from this condition in the traditional notion that “man becomes another thing in a battle” more selfless and connected to his comrades (73). But the few moments in Crane’s stories where individuals rise above self-preservation are not the typically heroicized moments of battle. Crane revises the sense of the heroic by allowing selfishness to persist through battle. Only when his characters are faced with the absolute helplessness of another human do they rise above themselves. In these grim situations the characters are reminded of their more fundamental opposition to nature.
Even before Henry enters the army his relationship with other humans is defined by antagonism. His mother asks him not to join the army and as a result he goes out and enlists. He announces his enlistment to his mother “diffidently,” (47) suggesting a conscious desire to hurt her feelings by exaggerating the ease of his decision. The moments before he leaves are not marked by any tender communion, but instead by an estranged irritation. Quiet antagonism escalates as Henry reaches his camp. The relationship between the veterans and the new recruits is not explained in the language of pedagogy, instead as in so many naturalistic relationships, the veterans are predators and Henry is the “prey” (51).
As the men enter battle, the reader expects this antagonism to subside, expects with Henry, that “man [will] become another thing in battle.” At first the youth’s fantasies seem to play out as he feels himself begin to weld “into a common personality which was dominated by a single desire” (84). But in the first moment that the troops are confronted with a viable enemy Henry “lost the direction of safety” (93). The threat to his self-preservation causes him to run from the battle, and as his own worse fear is borne out, his sense of antagonism returns with gusto. As he runs he calls his comrades “Methodical idiots! Machine-like fools” (95). It is evident that the understanding of his own weakness drives him to denigrate everyone around him, for psychological self-preservation. This particular sense of self-preservation creates an antagonism that runs throughout the rest of the battles; “he felt a great anger against his comrades” (99) because he senses they are always trying to crush his own sense of self-worth. The shared nature of this antagonism is evident from the nearly constant fights in the Union camps, even after successful campaigns. On the battlefield, when the enemy is supposed to be the men in gray, the anger is instead pointed “against his officer” (179), or in another situation, “riveted upon the man, who, not knowing him, had called him a mule driver” (183); the officers, rather than shouting encouragement, let fly blasphemous curses against the men. Even the most outwardly heroic moment that where Henry clutches the flag from the falling color-guard is defined by an antagonism, as both Henry and his friend “jerked at it, stout and furious . . . the youth and his friend had a small scuffle over the flag” (181), in an effort to secure the glory of carrying the flag for himself. Crane chose war as his venue for exploring human nature, suggesting his fundamental belief in antagonism as the basic state of humanity.
Yet there are moments where the humans do rise above this antagonism breeding self-preservation. These are not moments of battle where the sense of a communal hope and venture binds the men together. Instead, these moments come in the face of absolute hope- and help-lessness. The most vivid such moment comes in the moments before the death of Jim Conklin. As Henry sees the hopelessness of Jim’s situation, “he strove to express his loyalty, but could only make fantastic gestures” (112). In stark contrast to his antagonistic relationship with every other soldier up to this point, Henry is now eager to do anything for Jim. Henry never believes he can save Jim, he mourningly says “I’ll take care of yeh! I swear t’ Gawd I will!” (112), but he never dares utter that common refrain of battlefield literature, “you’re going to be all right.” He is silently cogniscant of Jim’s inevitable death, and while never explained as such, it is just this understanding that sets this moment apart from all the other moments in which Henry retains his antagonistic sense of self-preservation. This interpretation is supported by the dearth of selflessness in Henry until the next time he confronts helplessness. Henry again transcends his solipsism when he comes upon a column of men that had burst “from their coats and their equipments as from entanglements.” As they bear down upon Henry, he “forgot that he was engaged in combating the universe” forgot about the gripes with his comrades that he had returned to in the immediate aftermath of Jim’s death, and “stared in agony” at the men. Henry’s ability to move outside of his selfish concerns again does not come from some sense of a shared hope between the men, but instead from his recognition of the army as “helpless” (130).
The men in “The Open Boat” seem to have found a lasting sense of camaraderie in their own venture. The men consistently and cheerfully sacrifice sleep and comfort to give other men a break from rowing. But this sense of selflessness does not arise from a sense of collective venture, instead it arises from the omnipresent sense of hopelessness. Antagonism sneaks on to the boat only when they do come in contact with some source of hope. When they approach a tiny lighthouse the first man-made structure they have seen the “four scowling men sat in the dinghy, and surpassed records in the invention of epithets” (235). This moment of hope is said to sharpen their minds, and “to their sharpened minds it was easy to conjure pictures of all kinds of incompetency and blindness and, indeed, cowardice”: (236). When they again see humans on the shore the men on the boat argue about the identity and thoughts of the people, “no; he thinks we’re fishing,” “no, that’s no boat” (240). It is the only moment of disagreement they have during their journey. Visions of hope conjure up feelings of self-preservation, and with them a sense of self-righteousness and anger. As they float out to sea again, away from possible help, the men find complete agreement again, and answer all requests of themselves with a docile “sure.”
Henry enters battle with the notion that an identifiable enemy or opposition will help bring coherence to the men, and deliver him into a selfless heroism. While this does not happen in the war between men, a different opposition seems to help bring about the moments of transcendence in Crane’s works. An understanding of helplessness provides an opportunity for humans to bond together in the opposition to nature. Both Henry and the men on the open boat give a similar angry response to nature in the aftermath of their parallel experiences of bonding. While floating helplessly at sea, the men in the boat shed nary a negative word about the men on shore, but instead shout silent invectives at nature. At one hopeless moment Crane says that a man “wishes to throw bricks at the temple [of nature], and he hates deeply the fact that there are no bricks and no temples. Any visible expression of nature would surely be pelleted with his jeers” (246). Crane purposely leaves the identity of the thinker of this thought anonymous, suggesting that any and all of the men could have had this thought. Henry feels a similar rage coupled with impotence in the aftermath of Jim’s death: he “shook his fist. He seemed about to deliver a philippic. Hell- The red sun was pasted in the sky like a wafer” (116). Henry cuts his philippic short as he sees just how uncaring, and unapproachable the red sun is. Hopelessness opens man up to his more shared fate and powerlessness within nature, and creates a more distinct and hateful enemy than any men in gray. In this larger battle, man is changed, but only for those moments in which he is forced to confront his own powerlessness.
Crane does not necessarily view Henry’s ability to transcend himself in the face of helplessness as heroic. But Crane definitely leaves behind any positive notion of war as eliciting self-less heroism; “there was a singular absence of heroic poses” (87). Even while recognizing that “it would not be handsome for him to freely condemn other men,” as Henry does in battle, “the words upon his tongue were too bitter” (156). Battle only brings out a willful self-assertion as the self-worth of each man is tested. Those few moments where a “subtle brotherhood of men” (231) is spied, are conspicuously away from the battle field, in settings where man is able to dwell on the larger opposition present in the world.
Tone and Stance on War in The Red Badge of Courage and In Pharaoh’s Army
War has both rattled and captivated society since the beginnings of human history. Tales from war have long excited audiences, and images of great courage and heroic acts have often shaped the public view of war into a grand experience of fighting for a noble cause. However, literature has also expressed other, less lionizing stances towards war. Both The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane and In Pharaoh’s Army by Tobias Wolff are examples of this different perspective. While they are about two very different wars fought for very different reasons, neither work focuses as much on the war’s purpose or goal as much as on a soldier’s experience—either through fiction or nonfiction. Through the tones of their narratives, Crane and Wolff both develop a stance that war is not about glory or courage, but is rather a monotonous struggle. Soldiers, for these authors, are more focused on their own survival or image than on selfless courage in the name of a greater cause.
In The Red Badge of Courage, Crane develops his stance through a tone of irony by emphasizing the differences between the glorious thoughts of the main character, Henry, and the author’s vivid description of the realities of war. By almost mocking the character, Crane develops his stance on war, which he sees as a monotonous struggle that has very little to do with selfless heroism; instead, war is a state of self-preservation. The title itself refers to “a wound, a little red badge of courage” that Henry envied the wounded soldiers for having (51). Showing that this superficial proof of courage is more important to Henry than actual combat (which Henry avoids) reflects the tone of irony Crane continues throughout the novel. The main character’s thoughts are constantly filled with imaginations of glory—from “the strength” he felt “to do mighty deeds of arms,” (7) to the “thunderous, crushing blow” he conceived “that would prostrate the resistance and spread consternation and amazement for miles,” (120) to his “self-pride” which was “entirely restored” because nobody knew he fled the battle, “so he was still a man” (82). In this last example, Crane’s ironic tone is especially apparent as he presents Henry’s thinking as almost a logical fallacy. Henry, presumably, is a man because “he had performed his mistakes in the dark” (82). Crane contrasts Henry’s thoughts with violent and vivid descriptions of war—including men dropping “here and there like bundles,” with “blood streaming widely down” their faces, or “clinging desperately” to a tree “and crying for assistance” (34). Crane’s powerful descriptions of battle invoke a world uncaring of human suffering and make Henry’s desire for glory seem foolish in contrast.
Even when Henry performs quite a heroic action—bearing a flag at the head of a charge that “seemed eternal,” (106) as described by Crane at great length—it turns out that this advance was a very minute and insignificant part of the great struggle of war, and, according to a lieutenant, “wasn’t very far, was it?” (111) This is, again, a use of irony that develops Crane’s stance on war. Not only does he show it as a lengthy and painful struggle, but also one where soldiers are not concerned with selfless actions for a greater cause. By the end of the novel, he depicts Henry realizing his mistaken thoughts—finding that “he was gleeful” to discover that he despised “the brass and bombast of his earlier gospels” (128). This ending solidifies Crane’s stance on war by having his character come to agree with it—that war is truly not very similar to the traditional image of glory associated with it.
While The Red Badge of Courage disputes traditional notions of courageous warfare, In Pharaoh’s Army depicts an experience of war so far from selfless courage that the concept is hardly mentioned—an experience where the top concern was to obtain a 21-inch color television, to better watch the “Bonanza special on Thanksgiving night” (18). Resembling that used by Crane, Tobias Wolff’s tone is clearly ironic and mocking. Also calling to mind Crane’s, the tone here is established in part by indirectly ridiculing the main character’s thoughts, although in this case the character is the author’s past self, whom he presents as a product of the absurdity of the war. Using this tone, Wolff is able to develop a stance that war is, again, not about selfless courage but rather about self-preservation. The message given to soldiers before their tour, “if you do everything right, you’ll make it home,” (5) reflects this notion, and Wolff uses his own thoughts and actions as a soldier to exemplify the whole war effort. He shows that from the start, the Americans, including himself, saw the Vietnamese as “people, not peasants,” (4) but would quickly learn (as he indicates by portraying himself and other individuals, such as Captain Kale) that a friendly connection with the people they were supposed to be helping was hardly possible.
Wolff raises this criticism of the war many times, often through criticizing his own character, who, like others, “would kill every last one of [the Vietnamese] to save our own skins,” (140) or “didn’t think of our targets as homes,” because “when you’re afraid, you will kill anything that might kill you” (138). Wolff even goes further to directly criticize this attitude by showing how it lost the war; he explains that “once [the Viet Cong] were among the people we would abandon our pretense of distinguishing between them.” (140) This fundamental distrust between the Americans and their Vietnamese allies is a point Wolff returns to frequently, by again showing that he personally “wasn’t so sure about our friends,” even though “these men had never given me any reason for such a thought, as I well knew” (138). By continuing this tone of self-reflection that indirectly mocks himself, he strongly advances his stance on the war by accepting that he was very much a part of what he is criticizing. Wolff makes it quite simple to understand the absurdity and lack of glory in a war in which “the idea of those people coming at us with even a fraction of the hardware we routinely turned on them seemed outrageous,” (7) and the sergeant he lived with had to “somehow let me know what orders to give him to preserve the fiction of my authority” (162). Through a mocking and ironic tone, Wolff develops a stance that war is rather absurd; self-preservation trumps fighting gloriously for a cause.
While The Red Badge of Courage and In Pharaoh’s Army differ in the wars depicted and in the circumstances under which the wars took place, the similarities in their tones and stances on war are quite interesting. Neither focuses especially on the purpose of each war, but each still develops a shared stance—that war has little to do with glorious combat or selfless courage. Instead, war is endless futile fighting in which soldiers are interested more in their own lives and how they are perceived than in fighting valiantly for a noble cause. Certainly, through this stance each book is—and has been—able to affect readers’ own stances on war, challenging the age-old images of glory and heroism associated with warfare.
Red Badge of Courage Analysis
The red badge of courage is popular because it is a story that makes war look like a brutal violent terrible thing not something that represents heroism and romance. This was Cranes goal for the book and he accomplished it. Throughout the book gruesomeness is portrayed and men not acting like heros. This is popular because it is like no other book it is truthful and honest about what happens it doesn’t make up heros.
He suddenly lost concern for himself, and forgot to look at a menacing fate. He became not a man but a member. He felt that something of which he was a part a regiment, an army, a cause, or a country was in a crisis. He was welded into a common personality which was dominated by a single desire. For some moments he could not flee, no more than a little finger can commit a revolution from a hand. (501)
This shows how Henry is realizing that this isn’t like the Greek stories that he has read all his life. This is the real situation this also is when he is almost runs away from the battle because he knows that he is not courageous enough for the Civil War
THIS ADVANCE OF THE ENEMY SEEMED TO THE YOUTH LIKE A CRUEL hunting. He began to express his anger. He beat his foot upon the ground, and looked with hate at the rising smoke that was approaching like a flood. There was a maddening quality in this apparent determination of the enemy to give him no rest, to give him no time to sit down and think. Yesterday he had fought and run away. There had been many adventures. Today he felt that he had earned opportunity for rest and thought. He was sore and stiff from his experiences. He had had enough, and he wished to rest. But the rebels seemed never to grow tired; they were fighting with their old speed. He had a wild hate for the enemy. Yesterday, when he had imagined the world to be against him, he had hated the world. Today he hated the army of the enemy with the same great hatred. He was not going to run all his life, like a cat hunted by dogs, he thought. It was not good to push men so hard. (569)
This shows the battle about to start between the unions and the confederates Henry id about to have the courage to fight in a battle. This is a big change in the book and is the climax of the story. This is the final tale in a large bloody battle
The Red Badge of Courage is entertaining to people because of its aspect of war that goes so in depth that no other book at the time could compare with. The red badge of Courage gives people who have never experienced warfare up close and personal when reading this book. When writing Red badge of Courage Stephen Crane set out to destroy the notion that war was full of heroism and romance. Some libraries and schools have banned the Red Badge of Courage because of its violence in the book. Many warjunkies love this book.
The Lieutenant of the youths company was shot in the hand. He began to swear so wondrously that a nervous laugh went along the regimental line. The officers profanity sounded conventional. It relieved the tightened senses of the new man. It was as if he had hit his fingers with a tack hammer at home. He held the wounded member carefully away from his side so that the blood would not drip upon his trousers. The captain of the company, tucking his sword under his arm, produced a handkerchief and began to bind with it the lieutenants wound. And they disputed as to how the binding should be done. The battle flag in the distance jerked about madly. It seemed to be struggling to free itself from a frightful pain. The clouds of smoke were filled with flashes. Fast running men came through the smoke. They grew in numbers until it was seen that many brigades were running away. The flag suddenly sank down as if dying. Its motion as it fell was a movement of despair. Wild shouts came from behind the walls of smoke. A mob of men rushed past like wild horses.(496)
This is a brutal scene where blood is right in your face, meaning that you don’t have to read inbetween the lines to realize oh there is battle going on here where people are getting hurt and it is very bloody. This scene is entertaining because how much you learn from it about war because there is the hurting lieutenant who is being laughed at by his troops. This is a cool and entertaining scene for many because of the gruesomeness and the graphicness.
The men dropped here and there like bundles. The captain of the youth’s company had been killed in an early part of the action. His body lay stretched out in the position of a tired man resting, but upon his face there was an astonished and sorrowful look, as if he thought some friend had done him an ill turn. The babbling man was grazed by a shot that made the bloodstream widely down his face. He clapped both hands to his head. Oh! he said, and ran. Another grunted suddenly as if a club had struck him in the stomach. He sat down and gazed ruefully. In his eyes there was mute, indefinite reproach. Farther up the line a man, standing behind a tree, had had his knee joint splintered by a ball. Immediately he had dropped his rifle and gripped the tree with both arms. And there he remained, clinging desperately and crying for assistance that he might withdraw his hold upon the tree.(504)
This is another graphic scene that shows the battle of the 304th regiment attempting to hold off the confederates. Whats makes this so entertaining is the detail Crane goes into in this scene it makes you go wow and allows the reader to feel like there is in that moment some people get a rush of adrenaline from reading this book just because of the detail that Crane is going into.
Topic #3- Inspiration
One idea that would inspire young writers today would be the detail of the book not only with the side of war but in the details of every aspect of the book. The detail in this book focuses on the setting more than the overall story of the book. Something else that could inspire young writers is how Crane gets rid of the notion that war is full of heroism and romance.
Blue figures began to drop. Some fell down at the feet of their companions. Others, wounded, moved away; but many lay still, their bodies turned into impossible shapes. The youth looked around for his friend. He saw him. The lieutenant, also, was in his position in the rear. He had continued to curse, but with a voice rapidly growing weak. The colonel came running along behind the line. There were other officers following him. We must attack! they shouted. We must attack! They had strained voices, as if expecting a refusal by the men. The youth, upon hearing the shouts, began to study the distance between him and the enemy. He made a guess. He saw that to be firm soldiers they must go forward. It would be death to stay in the present place. Their hope was to push the enemy away from the fence. He expected that his companions would have to be forced to make this attack. But as he turned toward them, he saw that they were giving quick and unquestioning expressions of approval. At the words of command, the soldiers began to push forward in eager leaps. There was new and unexpected force in the movement of the regiment. It was a blind and despairing rush by the men in dusty blue, over grass and under a bright sky, toward a fence. From behind it spoke the fierce guns of the enemy.
The youth was shocked. He discovered that the distances, compared with the large measurings in his mind, were small indeed. The trees, where much had happened, seemed unbelievably near. The time,too, he realized, had been short. He wondered about the emotions and events that had been crowded into such little spaces. Tricks played by the thoughts of the moment must have enlarged everything, he felt. It seemed then that there was some bitter justice in the speeches of the other regiment. He looked down upon his friends lying upon the ground, breathless with dust and heat. They were drinking from their canteens, fierce to get every drop of water. However, to the youth there was considerable joy in thinking of his own performances during the attack. There had been very little time before in which to admire himself, so now there was much satisfaction in quietly thinking of his actions. He remembered things that in the battle had sunk unnoticed into his mind.
If she allows talk about how he was inexperienced writer talking about the touchy subject of war and not getting anyone’s opinion who have experienced war.
Topic #4 -Writing Style
Stephen Crane uses a contemporary writing style which means that it is based in a realistic setting and uses a style. This also means that there is either a hidden or open meaning of World politics for example the civil war a real time and still affects politics to this day
Topic #5- Something About Ourselves
This book shows something that many all can relate to, this shows book shows the change of Henry from a boy to a man he experiences this as a soldier. All people have some point in there life when they realize that they become an adult. This is caused usually by something that you do wrong. There are many coming of age stories but none show coming of age like it is shown in Red Badge of Courage. This book also shows how at one point in your life you have to leave behind your family and what you know to go somewhere else whether it be to College or a new home many will leave their home to go somewhere out of the ordinary. Usually you leave for something that is better than what you have prior to leaving.
He saw his vivid error, and he was afraid that it would stand before him all his life. He took no share in the chatter of his comrades, nor did he look at them or know them, save when he felt sudden suspicion that they were seeing his thoughts and scrutinizing each detail of the scene with the tattered soldier. Yet gradually he mustered force to put the sin at a distance. And at last his eyes seemed to open to some new ways. He found that he could look back upon the brass and bombast of his earlier gospels and see them truly. He was gleeful when he discovered that he now despised them. With the conviction came a store of assurance. He felt a quiet manhood, nonassertive but of sturdy and strong blood. He knew that he would no more quail before his guides wherever they should point. He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man. (573)
This scene shows Henry realizing that he is a man this scene also shows Henry realizing the error in his ways. Henry knows that he cannot look at the people who fought while he stood watch the same way because of what he did in the war
He felt that in this crisis his laws of life were useless. Whatever he had learned of himself was here of no avail. He was an unknown quantity. He saw that he would again be obliged to experiment as he had in early youth. He must accumulate information of himself, and meanwhile he resolved to remain close upon his guard lest those qualities of which he knew nothing should everlastingly disgrace him. (480)
This passage shows Henry’s fear of leaving and having the courage to fight. He is worried about leaving what he knows behind him and that scares him. This show’s the life lesson that all people go through something where they leave something behind to go somewhere that will turn them into manhood.
Topic #6 learning
The Red Badge of Courage is based during the American Civil War, one of the most influential wars in American history. In this story you learn about what a soldier at that time was going through, how many died and if they didn’t die they experienced a friends death. Although Red Badge of Courage is not completely accurate but it still shows how the American Civil War was a tough time for many and it was an awful time. You also learn how many soldiers not just Henry way have ran away from the fight and it was a mistake for them to enlist. There were many cowards in the war and I don’t blame them because they had the courage to enlist even though they didn’t end up fighting.
The Title of the book Red Badge of Courage is named what it is because on page 518 it is stated wishes that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage.(518)This quote makes it seem like the Red Badge of Courage is a medal of some sort, but really, it is just the blood that is coming at of the wound . This is an appropriate title name because this is what Henry wishes to receive but, for this you have to have courage not cowardice. Henry ends up being shot by a union soldier and pretends that he was hit by a confederate this is the ultimate form of cowardice because Henry is a coward. One alternative for a name could be Courageses Cowardly face. This would be appropriate because Henry represents someone who wishes to be courageous but he is to cowardly to fight in the Civil War. This title also could mean that Henry is two faced. Another possible name for the book could be Internal wounds of war this means that war could not only leave the scars on the inside but the life lessons that you learn on the inside.
One thing that I enjoyed in this book was the reality of war I had never read a book that goes into so much detail about war I have seen movies but I have never read about war. Reading about a war story is different than watching one, when watching a movie the picture is right there but when reading a book you imagine it with the detail that is given to you. I also really like how the story doesn’t get me attached to the characters it gets me more attached to the details and what is going on around the characters.
Topic #9 Dislikes
I disliked how the language of the story was hard to follow and how at some points you didn’t realize what was going on. At some points of the story I didn’t know if Henry was dreaming or if he was in a battle. Also at some points of the story you don’t know where Henry and the other Troops are at. This may be because I am not used to the language at this time period or it could be because I am not used to reading a book with a format like this.