Essay, Research Paper
The Red Badge of Courage begins with the Youth (Henry) preparing to leave to war. He has fabulous ideas concocted in his mind about victory and heroism. The Youth soon finds that victory and heroism are a small part in the splendor of war. The Youth’s mind soon becomes burdened with thoughts of death and running away from battle. Sure enough, in the midst of battle, the Youth flees the battlefield. The Youth must learn to deal with the shame he feels on deserting his comrades. When he returns to his camp he lies and says that he was separated during combat and was shot. The Youth is given another chance to fight and prove he is not a coward. As the book progresses, the Youth learns to deal with his shame by feeling honored for being a hero. In the end, the Youth becomes a man. He learns that the most important lessons in life can be seen by opening his eyes.
I personally was attracted to the Youth. All his thoughts and wild imagination impressed me. He would describe death as a being that could swallow him whole, and ramble on about wonderful sunsets. The Youth was also a very troubled soul. He worried a lot over things he might do and not the things he would do. For instance, on page 34, he questions others in hope that their answers would comfort him. He feels disassociated from others, “The Youth, considering himself separated from the others…” (p29). Page 35 quotes, “He was a mental outcast.” He lacked self confidence and “continually tried to measure himself by his comrades.” (p22). Despite his sorrow, the Youth was creative and compared ideas and objects to other ideas and objects. “The battle was like the grinding of an immense and terrible machine.”
I believe that the Youth brought the book to life through his life. At times I would find myself thinking, “I’ve thought that too!” For example on page 127, the Youth announces that his life should be lived to his expectations and not everyone else’s. I strongly agree with him on that idea. When the Youth was involved in hard situations, I pondered on what I would do and what decisions I would make. To illustrate, on page 80, when the youth ran, I decided I would have stayed and fought for my dignity if nothing else.
At the end of the book, Henry learns how important life truly is and why. He learned that war deals with death shame, and sorrow, not just victory and freedom. On page 266, Henry becomes a man. “He had been to touch the great death, and found, after all, it was but the great death.” Henry looked death in the eyes and fulfilled his dream of becoming a hero. He had earned the Red Badge of Courage.