Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, mainly focuses on Henry Fleming aka “the youth”. He is a teenager who wants to be known as a hero or courageous so he joins the war to be acknowledged as so. After joining, he ends up experiencing the reality of the whole situation he put himself in.
As the story continues, Henry ends up overcoming his fears and becomes a brave soldier. The book documents Henry’s mental health growth and the changes in his personality and behavior and his transformation from a boy to a man and the courage he gained throughout the process.
As you read the book, you will notice the main theme of the book is courage. Throughout the story, Henry equates courageous with manliness and thinks it has to do with the praise of his peers but later realized that courage is doing what he has to do and later accepts himself for all he is. He used to dream about being in battles, wanting to fulfil his dreams of glory as you can tell from this quote from chapter 1, “He had burned several times to enlist.
Tales of great movements shook the land. They might not be distinctly Homeric, but there seemed to be much glory in them. He had read of marches, sieges, conflicts, and he had longed to see it all. His busy mind had drawn for him large pictures extravagant in color, lurid with breathless deeds.” “Yet gradually he mustered force to put the sin at a distance. And at last his eyes seemed to open to some new ways.
He found that he could look back upon the brass and bombast of his earlier gospels and see them truly. He was gleeful when he discovered that he now despised them. With the conviction came a store of assurance. He felt a quiet manhood, nonassertive but of sturdy and strong blood.
He knew that he would no more quail before his guides wherever they should point. He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man” This quote from chapter 24 shows Henry’s transformstion from a cowardly boy to a courageous man and it told us how he now views things differnently from when he was a cowardly soldier.
Stephan Crane was known for his naturalist style of writing. Naturalism is “a theory that relates scientific method to philosophy by affirming that all beings and events in the universe are natural.” The Red Badge of Courage includes many examples of naturalism as it pays close attention to the details of the events.