Red Badge

–Henry’s Growth Essay, Research Paper

Each person goes through his or her own personal battle to mature. Some have this easy; others strive very hard to reach this goal of development. Although there may be constant struggles, there usually is one major event that creates somewhat of a bridge between childhood and adulthood. The Red Badge of Courage, written by Stephen Crane, traces the steps and major events in the life of Henry Fleming, focusing mainly on his evolution into manhood.

Henry is a young man who joins the Union Army, hoping he will perform outstanding and heroic actions that will stand out. When he reaches his point, he spends long, boring months in training and inaction, dying to get out and fight. During the war, he discovers that the warfare, romantic in his mind, exists only as what war truly is: evil. He tackles his weakness and gains a realistic sense of responsibility.

When Henry gets a taste of war, the battle inside him begins to rise. After feeling afraid that the regiment was going to leave him on the field alone, he throws his rifle down and runs off. Henry ran like a rabbit, and afterward feels extremely ashamed about his actions. He feels as though this act is not something to be proud of, and therefore does not help him achieve the feeling of manhood, although little does he know, it is helping him become stronger and mature into a man, and also, a hero.

While wandering in the back of all the fighting, Henry encounters a dead soldier and falls in with the ranks of the wounded men. He struggles with coming to grips with the reality of war because his dreams were so far off. He also witnesses the bizarre death of his close friend Jim Conklin, and, as a result, deserts another man named Jimmie Rogers to keep himself from watching Jimmie die an agonizing death close to the one of Jim. Henry exclaims, Gawd! Jim Conklin! while Jim gives him a little commonplace smile and says, Hello Henry. Jim has been a childhood friend of Henry s, and Henry always looked up to him. His self-doubt plagues him and labors with the actuality of his death.

Henry s growing desire for a wound, yet another tangible thing that helps the feeling of maturity and manhood grow in Henry, is granted when he is accidentally hit on the head by a rifle in the hands of a deserter. There was shootin here an shootin there, an hollerin here an hollerin there, in th damn darkness, until I couldn t tell t save m soul which side I was on. When Henry is found and taken for aid, he stretches the truth, saying that he was wounded in battle, and just the next day, returns to battle. He feels as though neither bravery nor cowardice matter is others do not notice them.

In the present, he declared to himself that it was only the doomed and the damned who roared with sincerity and circumstance. Few but they ever did it. A man with a full stomach and the respect of his fellows had no business to scold about anything that he might think to be wrong in the ways of the universe, or even with the ways of society. Let the unfortunates rail; the others may play marbles.

This quote reflects a naturalistic view of a man s actions being managed by the circumstances of his environment and by his instincts responding to these circumstances. Henry gains self-confidence slowly, and his actions slowly are altered too. He is now loud and brash, the counterpart to himself earlier on in the war. Henry soon fights very heroically without even realizing it himself.

It is these and more events that help shape Henry into the man he becomes at the end of the novel. By then, Henry can look at his heroic deeds, put his sins into perspective, and not feel too proud about one nor too guilty about the other. He begins to feel strong and self-confident


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