In The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane the main character, Henry Fleming, thought he understood the war between the North and the South. However, his understanding came “from his knowledge of fairy tales and mythology”(Gibson 21). Henry thought that he was like the heroes that he read about in these stories. He soon learned that real war was very different from his imaginative expectations. Crane took Henry’s fantasies and contrasted them with the realities of the war to develop this main character into a mature person.
Henry spent his early life on a farm in Virginia. Henry’s perception of the world was shaped almost entirely by the books his mother gave him to read. After the war started, “the newspapers carried accounts of great battles, in which the North was victor. Almost every day the newspapers printed accounts of decisive victory”(Walcutt), Henry’s mother was reluctant to let her son leave home and go South to do battle against the Confederate Army. She knew that Henry’s vision of war was not what war is really like. She tried to get Henry to change his mind about joining the army, but she was unsuccessful because “tales of ‘the war in his own country’ inevitably began to move him. They many not be distinctly Homeric, but there seemed to be much glory in them’”(Cody 122). Henry “is motivated” by his “heroic expectations of ‘great things’”(Colvert 97) as well as his keen interest and curiosity about what he views as the elements of war.
Henry thought that if one did not get a red badge of courage, then he was a coward. Henry had “battles” in his mind. “Fleming would pass into an absorptive trance in which...
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...n, IA: Perfection Learning Corporation, 1979.
Gibson, Donald B. The Red Badge of Courage: Redefining the Hero. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1988.
Lowell, Amay. Introduction. The Work of Stephen Crane: “The Black Riders and Other Lines.” By Stephen Crane. Vol. VI. 1926. Rpt. in Discovering Authors. Vers 1.0. CD-ROM. Detriot: Gale, 1992.
Magill, Frank N., Magill’s Survey: American Literature Realism to 1945. California: Salem Press, Inc., 1963.
Walcutt, Charles C. Stephen Crane: Naturalist and Impressionist in his American Literary Naturalism, a Divided Stream, University of Minnesota Press. 1956. Rpt. in Discovering Authors. Vers 1.0 CD-ROM. Detriot: Gale, 1992.
Wolford, Chester L. “Stephen Crane.” Critical Survey of Long Fiction. Ed. Frank N. Magill. English Language Series. Vol. 2. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Salem Press, 1991.
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