Tones of Intensity, Paranoia and Desperation Used in Crane's The Red Badge of Courage

Tones of Intensity, Paranoia and Desperation Used in Crane's The Red Badge of Courage

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War is an experience that many would consider brutal, horrific, and even inhumane. It is however, a part of the fabric of humanity. It has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen as long as there are humans on Earth. In Stephen Crane’s novel, The Red Badge of Courage, he depicts the time of the Civil War through the eyes of a young new soldier named Henry. Crane uses masterful imagery and figurative language to stimulate the reader’s imagination, but also to engage their mind as they envision the intensity of war and picture the reality of the circumstances. In order to do this, Crane portrays a variety of tones throughout the book, namely: paranoia, desperation, and intensity. These tones follow Henry as he follows the path of a soldier.
After Henry enlists in the army, he is afraid of what the future will hold, and is unsure of whether his strength will stay with him as fighting erupts, specifically, Henry is cynical of the soldiers who seem to be excited for war. Crane uses such elements of figurative language as metaphors to create a paranoid tone as Henry tries to find his character amidst the impersonal environment of war. “His emotions made him feel strange in the presence of men who talked excitedly of a prospective battle as of a drama they were about to witness, with nothing but eagerness and curiosity apparent in their faces. It was often that he suspected them to be liars. He did not pass such thoughts without severe condemnation of himself….He was convicted by himself of many shameful crimes against the gods of traditions.” (9-10). Henry feels threatened by the army he has enlisted in. He is not sure of how he must act or, more importantly, who he must be when faced with the insurmountable odds...


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...d to the actuality of war.
By using such literary elements as imagery and figurative language, Crane creates such tones as anxiety, exasperation, and ferocity as Henry learns what it is like to be a warrior. These tones serve to portray Crane’s image of war, but are expressed in such a way that they are not taken as fantasies of epic proportions, but rather a piece of what makes war such a deplorable experience. Crane is an artisan that shapes the image of war using similes, metaphors, and symbolism as the structure, and bringing it to life with descriptive language and color. The end result is like Picasso’s Guernica; a picture of civil war that is riddled with abstract and dark undertones, while portraying the realistic horrors of the battlefield.







Works Cited

Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1990. Print

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