Red Badge of Courage Essay: Themes of Heritage and Color

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Themes of Heritage and Color in Red Badge of Courage

"The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. As the landscape changed from brown to green, the army awakened, and began to tremble with eagerness at the noise of rumors. It cast its eyes upon the roads, which were growing from long troughs of liquid mud to proper thoroughfares. A river, amber-tinted in the shadow of its banks, purled at the army's feet; and at night, when the stream had become of a sorrowful blackness, one could see across it the red, eyelike gleam of hostile camp fires set in the low brows of distant hills" (Crane 1). The above quote is the opening paragraph of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. Just this one paragraph foreshadows the themes of change in color and its underlying messages, and the subtle idea of social heritage. Crane, through his detailed writing, colors the war as an ever changing psychological standing as well as the changing ideals of the socially learned heritage.

The novel opens with Henry Fleming in the field and remembering the route to his current condition within the war. Crane spends a good amount of time relaying the interaction between Henry and his mother as he prepares to go off to fight in the war as well as the questioning of himself as a man. What is so interesting about this particular part, as it relates to the end of the novel, is that the America ideals of the creation of a man (hero) through war and war as beautiful are approached and challenged.

Henry's mother isn't pleased with his going off to war. She warns him against not only the enemy but also the men he shall be fighting with. "He had, of course, dre...

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... the flag, the reader can see both flags in color upon a still black and white background. And finally, by the end, when Henry and his fellow men awaken to their victory, everything is in color of hope.

Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage formed circles of the two themes of heritage and color. While interchanging romanticism and deromanticism, Crane is able to create a complete three hundred and sixty degree rotation of the ideas of manhood, heroism, and attitudes of war (the fluctuating colors). The novel opens with the question of warriors equaling men and heroes, and ends with the answer. The novel begins full of color and ends with color. "Over the river a golden ray of sun came through the hosts of leaden rain clouds" (Crane 183).

Works Cited

Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage. Barnes and Noble Classics, 1992.
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