The Red Badge of Courage

A Hero’s Instinct 11th Grade

Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage abandons the idea of war as glorious and ideal, and instead shows war as rough and arduous, able to break an idealistic but untested person. The novel also departs from tradition by depicting its protagonist Henry Fleming, not as a towering hero but as an ordinary person given to fear and cowardice not befitting a hero. Looking at Henry’s development in the novel, critic Charles C. Walcutt sums up Henry Fleming thus: “He may have been fearless for moments, but his motives were vain, selfish, ignorant, and childish… He has been through some moments of hell during which has for moments risen above his limitations, but Crane seems plainly to be showing that he has not achieved a lasting wisdom of self-knowledge” (Walcutt 278).

Rather unusually, Walcutt goes on to describe the book’s action in terms of a geometric shape, that of the equilateral triangle. Walcutt sees the three points of the equilateral triangle representing instinct, ideals and circumstance which he claims are the three forces that guide Henry’s path throughout the novel. Walcutt’s model of the equilateral triangle correctly identifies these three forces as the main guiding forces of the novel but the model needs revision...

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