Red Badge of Courage Essay

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To Be or Not to Be… A Man The Red Badge of Courage written by Stephen Crane is a prime example of bildungsroman, or a coming of age story. Crane begins with a cowardly boy, Henry Fleming, and ends with an experienced war hero who has learned not just what war really is, but who he really is. Mark Twain once said, “The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” [Epigraph] Although he struggles to learn that being a soldier means more than just showing up at battle, Henry uses the influences of the attitudes, events, and his own inner thoughts to complete his metamorphosis psychologically and morally. He also learns that he may have to sacrifice himself at some point to save…show more content…
Henry fights with himself on the issue of if he is ready for this war or not when he contemplates on whether he would run away during battle or stay in combat. He views the war as almost a dream at first, visioning “marches, sieges, conflicts,” hoping that he would encounter challenges like these (Crane 4). He would soon come to find however, that war was nothing like he imagined. This realization leads to his psychological transformation and growth and sets the stage for Henry’s journey of becoming a man through battles and deaths that prepare him to evolve into the hero he is later. It is most clearly seen that Henry starts to make this psychological transition from boy to man at the beginning of his war experience in the story. Henry realizes “that a man became another thing in battle” (Crane 19). Although he does not actually demonstrate how he has become another “thing” in the first battle when he retreats, Henry becomes more of a fighting man instead of a young boy. This is shown through his thoughts about how he needs to return to his regiment and stick to what he committed to. On his journey to escape, the sights he encounters push his development along. Such sights included were witnessing a dead man in a “green chapel” and discovering that a “red badge” is a sign of honor and an accomplishment in war. It is noticed that he starts to think in terms of a soldier,
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