The Red Badge of Courage

Bravery, Nature, and Maturation in ‘The Red Badge of Courage.” 12th Grade

‘The Red Badge of Courage’ by Stephen Crane is not merely a war novel. It is an account of a young man’s struggle to understand both himself and the world, as well as deal with the burdens that come with it. Henry, the young soldier and protagonist of the book, slowly starts to grasp nature’s role in a human’s life, and battles with himself to sort out his conflicting beliefs on bravery and cowardice. All throughout the novel he slowly transforms from a selfish, naïve youth to a mature, weathered soldier who understands what is truly important in life. These themes shine a light through endless bloodshed and ceaseless gunshots, giving the book a more personal aspect and allowing us to connect to it more profoundly.

Bravery and cowardice, especially Henry’s connection to it, are predominant themes in the book. Henry stubbornly pursues his romanticized version of bravery, of fearless men charging into battle and either emerging victorious or dying gloriously. However, once he is faced with the reality of battle his courage starts to dwindle and doubts set in, not sure whether he will be brave enough: “He finally concluded that the only way to prove himself was to go into the blaze, and then figuratively to watch his legs discover...

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