The Red Badge of Courage

The author suggests Henry, along with the others in his regiments, is now a man. In what way has Henry become a man?

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Coming of age

The Red Badge of Courage fits into many literary categories, including bildungsroman - a coming-of-age story of a boy’s journey to manhood. Unlike many of these stories, such as Dickens’s David Copperfield, Henry’s journey does not span his entire lifetime but rather a few days in his life as a new recruit during the Civil War. When he first arrives he is completely untested in the ways of war; he is immature and has no idea what he will do when faced with actual battle. His thoughts jump back and forth and he demonstrates the negative traits of pride, shallowness, and cowardice. He actually does run when the battle gets heated, and he feigns that an accidental wound is a real battle injury in order to preserve his self-image and avoid censure and mockery from his fellow soldiers. He entertains childish fantasies of heroism and represses any uncomfortable thoughts of his actual conduct. However, in the next battle he displays courage and heroism when he takes the flag from the dead color-sergeant, and in a subsequent battle rallies his fading fellow troops. These actions may indicate that he has grown - indeed, Henry deems himself a man - however, one of the great questions in the text is how much has Henry truly matured by the end of the novel. He may really have grown into a man, or he may be telling himself what he needs to believe in order to survive.