The Red Badge of Courage Analysis

8 August 2016

In “The Red Badge of Courage” Henry defines the American dream as being known for being courageous. Henry wants to show how brave he is by joining the war and he wants to be acknowledged that way. From the book, it seems like it is mostly focused on Henry’s transformation from a coward man to a brave soldier, but Crane mainly focuses on his mental growth. This shows that the dream Crane is trying to debate is actually different from the main characters’ dream.

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Henry’s dream is to be memorable by his bravery. He plans to achieve this dream by showing everyone how daring he is by joining the war and being an important part of it. Although Crane wants to show that the dream is not all about fame but mostly about improvement and he achieves this by writing about Henry’s new understanding of the world. Even though Henry accomplishes his dream of being an important part of the war, he no more cares about it because he has become a man from being “the youth”.

Crane concentrates on the meaning of courage but his main purpose is to examine courage in the most discouraging events which is the battlefield. In the book “At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He conceived persons with torn bodies to be peculiarly happy. He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage” (70) shows how Henry isn’t ready for battle. He wishes that he had an injury, “a red badge of courage”, that showed that he had the courage of joining the war, that he is a hero.

In another part he thinks “And, furthermore, how could they kill him who was the chosen of gods and doomed to greatness? ”(111). Henry believes that he was chosen to be a hero, a memorable brave soldier. By saying “doomed to greatness” he means that his death will show his courage and that he will be known for his greatness and success in war. At other parts, Crane focuses on Henry’s thoughts on masculinity. After willingly joining the war, Henry starts to question his choice when he sees that the others are much more masculine.

“He told himself that he was not formed for a soldier. And he mused seriously upon the radical differences between himself and those men who were dodging implike around the fires”(27). This part of his thoughts shows the time he starts to doubt his decision when he realizes that his manhood may not be enough. It is clear that Henry’s reasons for fighting has more to do with courage and masculinity than anything else. As the story goes on, Henry evolves. Closer to the end, Henry and Wilson have a conversation, “His friend came to him. ‘Well, Henry, I guess this is good-by John.

’Oh, shut up, you damned fool! ’ replied the youth, and he would not look at the other”(142) which shows that Wilson and Henry exchanged roles. Henry refuses drama instead of Wilson. At this point Henry is more mature and doesn’t see the meaning of war as a badge of courage. Crane truly portraits the feelings and emotions of a soldier in battle. Throughout the book Crane wanted the reader to focus on Henry’s mental growth as the American dream and he attains it because it is clear that Henry grows as a person. He doesn’t see courage the same way anymore.

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