Henry IS

Henry IS

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     It is evident that after reading The Red Badge of Courage, there are many different interpretations as to what kind of person Henry is. Some argue that Henry’s change at the end of the novel turned him into an honor earning, noble man. While one battle can change a man, there are always the underlying traits that will never fade away. The beginning of the novel is where Henry’s psychological background is set. Henry’s personality is brutally self-centered, the only person in his mind is himself, and that’s the way it always will be.
     When Henry informed his mother that he was leaving to go to war, he was upset with her reaction. He expected a huge dramatic scene with his mother in tears and begging him to stay home. To his dismay, Henry received a stoic response, in which his mother told him to simply be careful. It was evident through the subtly of his mothers response that she was overly upset by her sons decision, and chose to support him as a good mother would. Henry was too busy worrying about the dissatisfying reaction from his mother to realize that she was hurt and distraught. This example is just a beginning to the selfish thoughts that pollute Henry’s mind.
     Henry was overly obsessed with obtaining a high reputation on the battlefield. He hoped that an impressive performance during battles would immortalize him as a hero among the rest of the soldiers. Henry holds his head high throughout the entire beginning of the novel, and while he makes mistakes, he does not blame it on himself. Also, Henry ran away from battle, which ends up with one less person in line to fight. Henry was not thinking of the other soldiers he put at risk when he fled, but only his own fear and life. Although he was just one soldier, one soldier can make a difference. When Henry fled from battle, afterwards he blamed it on the other soldiers who did not follow in his footsteps. He found them to be fools for not protecting themselves from death as he did. In order to further increase his high self-image, he faked a wound. Getting hit in the head by the butt end of a rifle is not a hero like quality, so he went along with the lie of getting shot. Luckily, the unsuspecting soldiers believed that a bullet grazed his head, and the bump on his head wasn’t the only factor to how huge Henry’s head looked.

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     Henry showed a blatant disregard to human life, not counting his own. As Henry ran into the tattered man, he was quick to abandon the hurt man. The subtle battle brotherhood theme that outlined the book would suggest that the right thing to do would have been to help the tattered man. If Henry weren’t repulsed by the state of the tattered man, he would have helped the man back to camp, to a safe place to recover. Instead he could not overcome a state of disgust that is common in war, and he left the man to die. Once again, Henry did not help a life other than his own. Henry agreed to deliver a letter to Wilson’s family in the event that he died. While this may seem like a noble act, Wilson did not die, and Henry wanted to keep the letter to use as blackmail in the future. Henry wanted to take advantage of Wilson in order to feel superior. Henry’s treatment of other people was appalling and offending.
     While Henry claimed to have had a psyche changing revelation, you cannot change a mind set within a day. Procedures such as that take time, and through the examples I provided, it is apparent that Henry is a self-centered egotistical man, with only himself on his mind. Henry thought of himself over his mother and fellow soldiers. His prime interest was to be a hero, and he would use any excuse to get his fellow soldiers to recognize his achievements. In the end, Henry was seen as one of the regiment’s best, which is an insult to every other soldier in battle with him. While Henry made a last minute change, most soldiers went into battle humble, fought to the death, and respected every person around them. Henry went into war with the wrong pretenses and coincidentally exited war as a hero. The middle stages cannot be disregarded, and Henry is nothing more than a self-centered young man looking to grow up.
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