The Red Badge of Courage

Tone and Stance on War in The Red Badge of Courage and In Pharaoh’s Army 11th Grade

War has both rattled and captivated society since the beginnings of human history. Tales from war have long excited audiences, and images of great courage and heroic acts have often shaped the public view of war into a grand experience of fighting for a noble cause. However, literature has also expressed other, less lionizing stances towards war. Both The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane and In Pharaoh’s Army by Tobias Wolff are examples of this different perspective. While they are about two very different wars fought for very different reasons, neither work focuses as much on the war’s purpose or goal as much as on a soldier’s experience—either through fiction or nonfiction. Through the tones of their narratives, Crane and Wolff both develop a stance that war is not about glory or courage, but is rather a monotonous struggle. Soldiers, for these authors, are more focused on their own survival or image than on selfless courage in the name of a greater cause.

In The Red Badge of Courage, Crane develops his stance through a tone of irony by emphasizing the differences between the glorious thoughts of the main character, Henry, and the author’s vivid description of the realities of war. By almost mocking the character, Crane...

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