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Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage Essay

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Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage

When reading the Red Badge of Courage, it is necessary to understand the symbolism that Stephen Crane has created throughout the whole book. Without understanding the true intent of color use, this book loses a meaningful interpretation that is needed to truly understand the main character, his feelings and actions. Crane uses very distinct colors in his text to represent various elements that the main character, Henry or “the youth”, is feeling along his adventure of enlisting into battle. Red, yellow and gray are the main color's Crane uses consistently in the majority of the chapters to describe Henry’s inner conflicts and feelings. The color purple is mentioned very briefly but reflects
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Chapter 2 is where Crane begins to really use the color red. The fires were described as being red as well as the eyes of the enemy, symbolizing that battle is in the near future as well as presenting an image of rage that the enemies posses. In chapter four Crane uses the color red to represent a would that the lieutenant had just received. Henry, who had hoped for a ‘red badge of courage’, is surprised to witness the lieutenant trying to avoid the blood from getting on his uniform because it was not a true battle wound. In the incidence when Henry is running from battle, he mentions hearing a “crimson roar from the distance.” This signifies that he is running from battle, the thing he fears most at that moment. When Jim is found lying on the ground, Henry realizes that red wounds could equal death and are not as glorious as he had once thought. There is a red sun setting during the moment when Henry realizes that war is “hell”. In the final chapter of the book, Henry completes his journey of courage content that he is finally a man and feels that he had been released from the red sickness of battle.

Gray is used consistently throughout the book to represent a sense of the unknown and death for Henry. In chapter three, the vivid colors used previously now slightly shift to become dark and dreary, they become gray. Crane often makes a point to describe the smoke and fog as being very
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