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Boys to Men in Red Badge of Courage
The Civil War took more American lives than any other war in history. It divided the people of the United States, so that in many families brother fought brother. The four years of bloodshed left a legacy of grief and bitterness that remains in part even today. The war started on April twelfth, 1861 in Charleston, South Carolina. It ended four years later on April ninth, 1865. Many people call this tragic conflict the War Between the States, the War of the Rebellion, the War of the Secession, or the War for southern Independence. But regardless of what it is called, the war was a great turning point in American history.
What is so interesting about Crane's Red Badge of Courage? I found out that war turns boys into mature men, the real dialect and slang used during the war, and what it's like to be a soldier in the Civil War.
The whole novel covers only two days in the life of Henry Flemming, the main character. In that amount of time, war can turn a boy into a man. It does not physically turn an individual into a grown man, but it mentally matures them. War matures boys into a men is by experiencing new, unpredictable environments and adjusting to unfamiliar smells, sounds, and emotions. Think about it, being there on a battlefield witnessing deaths of friends and comrades would have to have an effect on a human being. Being in a war and to be around new faces, new personalities, confusion, and trauma would force one to adapt to an environment faster than you usually would. Just imagine leaving your country home and entering a new and frightening world on a battlefield. What can make one a hero or a coward? Fears, emotions, thoughts, and feelings can be the factors that contribute towards the struggle. As I read this novel I lived not only Henry's actions, but also his individual thoughts and feelings.There was shootin' here an' shootin' there, an' hollerin' here and hollerin' there, in th' damn darkness, until I couldn't tell t' save m' soul which side I was on (p.136, Crane).
By utilizing the soldiers talking in a dialect that was common during the war and using slang to represent certain words reflected the authors' emphasis on realism and descriptiveness.
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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 campfires set in the low brows of distant hills (p. 1, Crane).
Has anyone ever thought about what the United States would be like if the Civil War never took place or if the South had won? Just the thought of it makes me feel ill. There would be so many things different than they are now. Would there still be slavery? Would it spread to the western United States? The Civil War shaped this country's moral beliefs in that it will not tolerate slavery. What would the government be like? Would there be communism? Would there be worldwide chaos? These are some of the questions that come to my mind when I think about if there was no Civil War.
Imagine lying in a canvas tent writing a letter to your parents under candlelight in drenching rain. Camp is so smoky; ones eyes were sore and watering. Being on the march for twenty-two days and so sore after every day not speaking a word the whole day. Marching barefoot some of the days. Sleeping on the uncovered ground in all kinds of weather and poor living circumstances. Now, it might seem that a soldier's life is dreadful and all, but they do have their good times. Like when they receive their letters from home or after a great victory when they celebrate.
The life in the camps is not the worst part of being a soldier. Obviously the horrifying and violent battles are the worst part of being a soldier. As a soldier one will witness the most grotesque circumstances and violence. While reading Red Badge of Courage some soldiers are fatally wounded. They are shot through the arms, legs and feet. One man had his ear shot off by a cannon ball, one was shot through the abdomen, and he cannot live. One had his leg taken off by a rifled cannon ball; one was struck by a cannon ball in the thigh, and he cannot live. Soldiers get frustrated and there are a lot of sarcastic remarks exchanged. By doing so there are grumbling and mumbling:
Good Gawd…we're always being chased around like rats! It makes me sick. Nobody seems to know where we go or why we go. We just get fired around from pillar to post and get licked here and get licked there, and nobody knows what it's done for. It makes a man feel like a damn' kitten in a bag (p. 174, Crane).
Like any war, the Civil War changed lives. Lives of soldiers, their families, and even the little children during that time. In actuality, Henry was changed when he went to war. He experienced all the aspects of war: loneliness, illness, terrifying incidents, rage, and frustrations.