The Red Badge of Courage

An Infatuation With the Flag

Henry Fleming, after receiving his red badge of couragea blow to the headtakes over the role of color-bearer during a vicious combat. As he sees his comrade sink to the ground in pain, he fights with his friend Wilson for the esteemed position of flag-bearer and finally wrenches the Union colors from the grasp of the dying man. With the flag in hand, Henry feels immediately empowered; the ubiquitous symbol of freedom and courage invests him with his own power and valiancy as he rushes headlong towards the enemy lines. Stephen Crane's continuous reference to color in The Red Badge of Courage, manifests itself outright in his few descriptions of the flag. The flag, symbolic by its very nature, invests the warriors with violent emotion as well as acting as an impetus for action, in the case of the young soldier. Crane emphasizes descriptions of the colors, the flag-bearers and the enemy's own flag to further increase the depth of feeling in the novel. Since a flag often invokes deep sentiments of nationalism, patriotism and faith, Crane's very descriptions of the flag tend to be wrought with feeling and augment a description of character.

As Henry Fleming's character shifts throughout the course of the novel, the...

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