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A Battle for Adulthood in Red Badge of Courage
Throughout the novel, The Red Badge of Courage, written by Stephen Crane, a theme is portrayed within a battle that takes place during the Civil War. It is that each person must find the courage to win his or her won battle for maturity or adulthood. A soldier, who is also the main character, Henry Fleming, exemplifies this theme.
Henry Fleming begins as an immature soldier who enlists in the army without knowing a reason why. Henry has a romantic view of the war, and expects it to be glorious: “They [battles] might not be distinctly Homeric, but there seemed to be much glory in them. He [Henry] had read of marches, sieges, conflicts, and he had longed to see it all.” Henry obviously lacks maturity because he was very determined to enlist in the army, but tries to blame the government for being at war.
Henry starts to realize that there are no heroes and that there are no individuals: “He had grown to regard himself merely as a part of a vast blue demonstration.” Therefore he is beginning to fight the battle within himself into adulthood. Henry looses some of his selfishness and gains concern for others, another stepping stone: “He felt the subtle battle brotherhood more potent even than the cause for which he was fighting.” Henry deserts a dying soldier and runs from a battle, but recognizes that running away was wrong. It isn’t a mature action, but he is mature to realize the magnitude of running.
With the knowledge of his past mistakes, Henry goes into battle without thinking about the past and fights heroically. After a general makes a derogatory remark about Henry and his comrades, it reveals Henry’s change of attitude. He accepts the comment without rebellion and fights with courage. Because of the success of fighting bravely, Henry has the self-esteem to deal with his mistakes as an adult. As a mature person he can learn from his mistakes.
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