The Red Badge Of Courage Character Analysis

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In The Red Badge of Courage, Henry Fleming is a young soldier enlisting himself in the arm during the Civil War with dreams of returning home as a hero. However, the accumulation of horrific experiences of war inevitably leads “the youth” to maturation and to the discovery of his identity. From the start of the story, Henry is presented as a naïve youth who wants to enter the army in order to copy heroes from the Homeric era. Expecting some sort of praise from his mother, he is disappointed with the send-off she gives him, instead warning him that he can’t be the hero he wants to be, leaving him displeased. However, the town sends him off the way he wanted, making him feel like “he must be a hero” (Crane 9) despite not having done anything…show more content…
At his first fight, Henry is metaphorically swallowed up by his unit, “[becoming] not a man, but a member” (49). His thoughts of being the only hero quickly dissipates when his selfish personality is replaced by “a common personality which was dominated by a single desire” (49). Both examples demonstrate how easily Henry is swept into the mind-set of a soldier and how he follows orders with no doubts in mind; not necessarily out of loyalty, but despite wishing to be the hero, Henry is a follower. However the cowardice within Henry prevails and he flees. With his act of running away, his thoughts jumble up into a self-defensive accusatory tone, needing excuses to gratify himself and essentially acting like an anti-hero than a hero. His complaints about the opposing army’s strength are a testament to his belief of being the only one capable of defeating the army and also a parallel to a child’s confidence. Seeing his friends mature and reflecting on why he is fighting leads to his development. This change from a boy to a man becomes clear when he faces his fears and joins the fight. “It was not well to drive men into final corners; at those moments they could all develop teeth and claws”, this passage is symbolic as before he only saw himself as a member of the army but now considers himself a man (144). Feeling the need “to fight harder” is also telling because he isn’t running away from an enemy that he recognizes as strong and indiscreetly implies he’s willing to give his life in order to win the battle (147). After receiving a wound on his head, a red badge of courage, he wakes up the next day and “[finds] himself a knight” (148). This title he gives himself is critical to understand as Henry accepts his role to fight for the army and is even willing to give his life for it. When called a “mule-driver”

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