The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage

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The Red Badge of Courage

     The main character in The Red Badge Of Courage is a young boy named Henry Fleming who experiences war for the first time during the Civil War. He is a Union soldier in the 304th New York. Throughout the book, Henry goes through a complete change of character as the war goes on. The three main stages Fleming goes through are before he actually engages in combat, his second combat experience and the second day of battle.
     The entire reason Henry Fleming joined the army was to become a hero. He was completely blind to the Union’s cause as a whole and was looking more for personal achievement and well-being. This is depicted in the quote “his province was to look out, as far as he could, for his personal comfort.” Henry’s plans of heroism and bravery are cut short when his regiment does not enter actual combat, but rather continues to hear news and rumors of upcoming battle. During this time, Henry has a lot of time on his hands and does some serious thinking. He begins to feel uncomfortable and wishes he were back home with his mother on their farm. Also, he starts to feel insecure about how he will react in battle. He fears that he will run away in terror when the fighting actually begins. “He recalled his visions of broken-bladed glory, but in the shadow of the impending tumult he suspected them to be impossible pictures” is a quote that shows Henry’s insecurity about battle.
     Although filled with doubt, Fleming actually fights well during his first combat experience. It is during his second battle that his fear overcomes him. When the two soldiers on either side of him run, he is fraught with fear. This causes the youth to throw down his gun and run away from the fighting. As he is running, he rationalizes his decision by telling himself that the regiment was about to wiped out, when in fact the line held and victory was achieved. It is now apparent that Henry is also extremely afraid of being teased by his fellow soldiers. During this period, Henry goes through a major change. The next day he is boastful about his acts of “bravery” and ignores his acts of cowardice.
     On this second day of battle, Henry also enters his third and final stage. When his regiment engages the enemy, Henry begins to act on instinct instead of rationalizing everything.

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He also lets go his fear of death and his denial of his success. As a result, Henry is able to fight bravely and heroically; he even receives praise by lieutenant and colonel for his acts of bravery.
     As the youth begins his journey home, he feels that the experiences of war had truly made him a man, but he wanted to leave them behind him as a part of the past as shown in the quote “he had rid himself of the red sickness of battle.” Through war, Henry has matured and learned the true meaning of courage. Also, he has given up his sole plans of individual glory and sees himself as a part of the whole picture. I feel that Henry’s self-evaluation in Chapter 24 reinforces this idea.
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