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Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage as Bildungsroman Essay

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Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage as Bildungsroman

In the Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, the main character Henry Fleming joins the army as a young fledging and ultimately matures to a courageous soldier ready for battle. The Red Badge of Courage is considered a Bildungsroman since the reader traces Henry’s development morally, psychologically, and intellectually. Henry progresses from a feared youth who in the course of a couple of days, in the line of fire, has crossed the threshold to manhood.

Henry Fleming’s growth is demonstrated after the first battle when he becomes mentally stronger and surmounts his fear of being a coward. Henry Fleming is a romantic dreamer, inspired by visions of a chivalric
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He had not been aware of the process. He had slept and awakening, found himself a knight (Hart).”

Henry’s hopes and confidence are suddenly crushed when the enemy reappears and Henry finds himself running from his post with the others and his worst fears are realized in this testimonial. Henry is still in the stages of development and although he overcomes his first testimonial, he still is a “fresh fish” in many ways. Henry suffers from shame when he realizes that his comrades have all held in line. Henry tries to justify with himself that he did the natural thing: run. This was what the squirrel did when he threw a pine at it and it was only natural to run to steer away from danger. Later, Henry encounters the tattered soldier and several men who display their “red badge of courage.” Henry wishes he had a wound displaying courage. The only wound Henry possesses is in his soul since he has such low self-esteem. It is the death of Jim Conklin, the epitome of courage, that makes Henry begin to realize the realities of war as he is beginning to encounter more with death. “The red sun was pasted in the sky like a wafer (Crane, 71).” The sun seems to be a symbol of Jim’s wound and of courage (Solomon). The death of Jim Conklin represented Henry’s childhood and the tattered soldier represents Henry’s idealized self, which is dying. Henry is deserting the image he had of himself before he joined
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