Analysis Of Henry Fleming 's ' The Battle Of Chancellorsville ' Essay

Analysis Of Henry Fleming 's ' The Battle Of Chancellorsville ' Essay

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In the beginning of Red Badge*, the year is 1863 and the stage is set for the upcoming Battle of Chancellorsville. Henry Fleming awaits orders as rumors stir of an early May march*. The novella begins after Henry has joined the 304th New York regiment and has encamped in Virginia. Upon hearing news the news he might face battle, Henry becomes filled with angst. The narrator then reveals to the reader, Henry had “dreamed of battle all his life” (Crane 2). Henry imagined himself a hero; to achieve glory and fame were Henry’s sole reasons for enlisting in the military. Henry is, therefore, a romantic*. A romantic is an individual who is attracted to the emphasized details of heroism in a typically grim event. Now, after hearing rumors of his regiment being deployed, Henry tries to “mathematically prove to himself that he would not run from a battle” (4). Henry’s cowardice in the face of battle is a sharp contrast from the romantic images he once saw of himself, making Henry’s internal tumult an example of Irony. As Dr. Ball, a literary professor, defines Irony when there is a “collision of romantic expectations and reality” (Ball).* Later in the novella once Henry is engaged in his first battle, another example of irony becomes apparent to the reader. Although Henry stands and fights amongst his comrades for the first attack of the Confederate soldiers when the second attack comes, Henry flees “like a proverbial chicken” (Crane 13). To his dismay, Henry flees the battle once he begins to witness others do so as well. A stark and bitter example of irony as Henry proves his cowardice and lack of bravery when he forsakes his fellow soldiers. As Henry deserts*, he soon hears the news of his regiment’s victory and feels instant horror. Hi...

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...y was “like a dog” who in seeing retreat insists upon pursuit* (45). “A dog insisting on pursuit” is more animalistic description than a hero leading a charge, revealing the irony and foolhardiness in Henry’s “bravery”* than for what it’s worth (45). Later upon witnessing a color sergeant perish while holding the flag, Henry and his friend Wilson clasp the flag because “each felt bound to declare […]* his willingness to further risk himself” (51)*. It is ironic because Henry sees the flag as a “creation of beauty and invulnerability” as if carrying the flag will grant him invincibility in battle (51). To the reader, Henry’s ignorance towards being the flagbearer is apparent; however, Henry bares the flag as a means to bring further glory and honor to himself. Despite Henry’s cowardice, he manages to hide his shame and win “glory and fame” in battle the following day.*

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