The Red Badge of Courage

Crane's Red Badge of Courage: The Flag

Stephen Crane, in "The Red Badge of Courage", makes numerous references to flags, references that are all fraught with meaning. Flags themselves hold a great deal of symbolic value. They began as a way to distinguish tribes in battle, but came to symbolize "[t]he hopes and aspirations, the joys and sorrows, the romance and chivalry, of the human race" (Moss 1). During the American Civil War, when "The Red Badge of Courage" takes place, flags gained a great deal of import. "The Civil War generation accorded their flags more importance than subsequent scholars have allowed. They recognized the powerful ways that these emblems...elicited military courage in battle" (Moss). Crane's flags, however, do not simply communicate valor; they are representations of the regiment's, as well as an individual's, spirit and pride, and are implicit symbols of power and control. Furthermore, they signify an untouchable glory and a potent god.

The dominant feature of a flag is its color. Crane rarely assigns the flags in his text specific colors, often referring to them simply as "the colors" - a common phrase during the Civil War. Because they are so rare, the moments that he does...

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