, Research Paper
In the Novel, The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane had four main themes he believed about war. These themes are, War is organized brutality, War is inhuman, War is a “test” of individuals, and War offers an opportunity for personal growth. Henry Fleming, the main character in the novel, shows perfect examples of these themes.
One morning at dawn a man comes on horseback to deliver orders. The
regiment begins to march, and Henry tries to avoid speaking to his comrades. He does not know if he will run from battle or not. At night he lies down on the grass and wishes he were at home on his mother’s farm. A soldier named Wilson comes to talk to him, and they discuss the upcoming events. He asks Wilson if he is sure he would not run away from battle, and the loud soldier swears that he he would not. The regiment reach a stopping place and some of the soldiers began to build mounds from stones in front of them. Before long, however, they are told to withdraw. Henry does not know why they were led to this point, and he and the other soldiers discuss the indecisiveness of the army commanders. In the afternoon they march again, and they hear skirmish fire. The loud soldier, Wilson, tells Henry that this battle will be his first and last. He asks Henry to take a yellow envelope back to his family. The brigade is halted in a grove. Bullets begin to fly by them, and the lieutenant is struck in the hand. The regiment stands motionless, watching the Confederate brigade in front of them retreat. The scene descends into chaos, and the members of Henry’s regiment know that they must hold their ground. Some soldiers, such and Wilson, know when they are going to die. This shows how brutal war is.
War is also extremely inhumane. Parts from the book displayed this well. As the soldiers wait for the upcoming assault Henry likens his current situation to a more pleasant memory of waiting for a parade back home. Someone shouts that the Confederate soldiers are approaching, so Henry and the other members of his regiment prepare to fight. A general rides by and tells them that they must hold the grays back, and the captain coaches the young soldiers, telling them to reserve their fire. Henry sees the enemies in the distance and fires one wild shot. He suddenly feels that he is part of the group, no longer an individual.
Henry feels rage, and wishes he could attack the enemy with his bare hands. Henry sees his fellow soldiers dropping around him: the captain dies, the blabbering man is grazed by bullet, another is wounded in the leg. He also sees the enemy soldiers begin to scatter, and then retreat. Shouts are heard among the Union soldiers, and then all is quiet. Henry looks up at the blue sky and wonders at the tranquility of nature amid all this fighting.
War is definatly a show of personality. The main character, Henry Fleming, grows immensely in the novel. The young soldier has heard stories from more experienced soldiers, but he does not know how much to believe. He also begins to worry that he himself might run away from battle. Jim still insists that they are about to advance, and the youth asks Jim whether he
thinks anyone will run. Jim says that some probably will, but that someone in every regiment does. The youth asks Jim if he would run himself, and Jim says
that it would depend on the other soldiers actions. Henry is reassured that he is not the only soldier lacking confidence. Near the end of the novel Henry becomes more confident in himself and rushes to the front of his brigade to carry the flag. Henry matures greatly throughout the novel.
The novel, The Red Badge of Courage shows the themes by Crane very easily. These themes are War is organized brutality, War is inhuman, War is a “test” of individuals, and War offers an opportunity for personal growth. Henry Fleming, the main character in the novel, portrays these themes well.