Stephen Crane's purpose in writing The Red Badge of Courage was to dictate the pressures faced by the prototypical American soldier in the Civil War. His intent was accomplished by making known the horrors and atrocities seen by Unionist Henry Fleming during the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the conflicts within himself.
Among the death and repulsion of war, there exists a single refuge for the warrior--his brethren. The success of combat is directly related to the morale of the soldiers, as it is the relationship with the neighboring soldier that demonstrates the motive for fighting. This association between men creates an abundance of compulsion from one man to the next. Similarly, as Henry Fleming developed a rapport with men throughout the 304th Regiment, he began to be subjected to the pressures of war and his companions, which greatly influenced his maturation during the Civil War.
Having read of marches, sieges, conflicts, and the exploits of Greek warriors, and, as well, longing to see such, Henry enlisted into the Union army, against the wishes of his mother. Before his departure, Mrs. Fleming warned Henry, "...you must never do no shirking, child, on my account. If so be a time comes when yeh have to be kilt or do a mean thing, why, Henry, don't think of anything `cept what's right..." Henry carried with himself this counsel throughout his enlistment, resulting in his questioning himself on his bravery. As a sign of Henry's maturation, he began to analyze his character whilst marching, while receiving comments from his brethren of courage in the face of all adversity, as well as their fears ...
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...urth kept to himself, fearing for his safety, and ashamed of being captured. Henry's final step in maturation was finally made through the sacrifice of his companions, and their pressuring him to lead the charge.
The reaction of one soldier to another is the basis of war, as camaraderie is the methodology by which wars are won. Henry gave witness to the horrors of war, the atrocities of battle, the deaths of his friends, and later a life of victory. The ultimate transformation in Henry's character leading to a mature temperament was found by finding himself in the confusion of war and companionship.
Works Cited and Consulted:
Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Canada; 1976.
Gibson, Donald B. The Red Badge of Courage: Redefining the Hero. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.
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