The Red Badge of Courage

Self-Deception: An Analysis of Chapter Six in The Red Badge of Courage

In chapter six of Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, protagonist Henry Fleming flees from battle in a panic. When, in the next chapter, he hears that the remaining members of his regiment defeated the enemy without his assistance, he suddenly feels resentful. As is demonstrative of his self-deceiving ways, Henry avoids his latent feelings of shame and inadequacy by reassuring himself that their actions were foolish, as any sensible man would be chiefly motivated by self-preservation, and thus would run. In an effort to escape the chaos of fighting, Henry walks into the forest, engrossed by his thoughts. Amidst the comfort of nature, he throws a pinecone at a nearby squirrel, and it in turn scampers away. Henry interprets the squirrel's reaction as proof of man's instinct to survive regardless of the circumstances. Soon afterward, he wanders into a chapel-like forest grove, within which he discovers the corpse of a soldier in a blue uniform. Henry stares at the body, his eyes unwillingly fixed on the hideous site, and then stumbles out of the clearing in horror.

As a whole, the instances of direct and indirect characterization in conjunction with metaphor and symbol allow the reader to gain insight into...

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