Sunday, February 13, 2011

Stephen Crane - from The Red Badge of Courage

Stephen Crane's classic novel, The Red Badge of Courage, tells of a story of a man who faces the most difficult decision of his life in the strongest heat of battle (Crane, 493). Being a member of the army during the Civil War, Henry Fleming enters the battle as a regular, run of the mill soldier going in to fight for a brief while and, most likely, die in a few minutes, but he survives much longer; in fact, he sees another brother in arms, the standard bearer, fall and chooses to take his place himself at the front of the front lines (Crane, 493). In this specific excerpt from Stephen Crane, the main character, Henry Fleming, is already in battle, trying to fight but being stopped by his fears and thoughts (Crane, 493). "Presently he began to feel the effects of the war atmosphere - a blistering sweat, a sensation that his eyeballs were about to crack like hot stones. A burning roar filled his ears" (Crane, 493). His anger swelling, Henry rages not against his opposition in the physical battle but against his rifle for being unable to kill a larger number than only one man at a time (Crane, 493). This indignity comes to a "wish to rush forward and strangle with his fingers" (Crane, 493). Human nature is a huge portion of this work because there is a longing feeling to turn back and give up on the battle, but he wants to stay true to the fight for the honor and glory of victory, and he still also wants the battle to just end. The nature of man is to run away from a bad situation, which is what Henry initially does, (Crane, 493) but he is quickly and abruptly halted by another soldier who hits him in the head with his gun because he did not know what side Henry was fighting for. So, there are actually two examples of human nature in this small action. Henry acts out of instinct because he is afraid of death, and the other soldier reacts to the blurry sight of an armed soldier running franticly at him (Crane, 493). Naturalism is the more predominant description of this work as opposed to simple Realism. This everyday man is placed in an extraordinary situation and heroicly braves his way through to the end of the battle and keep his honor in the process (Crane, 493). Society throughout the entire book is lacking because his life is now on his own in the army, just like all the other soldiers. Government and religion still have no importance in this excerpt. Nature, however, is slightly important here because the fighting style of the time was accomplished by taking cover behind an object, like a tree or in a bunker, and firing a shot once it is loaded. America's Dream is fulfilled in this book as a whole with the beginning of its run starting in this section. Henry is only barely capable of restraining himself from leaping out of hiding and charging to attack with his bare hands (Crane, 493). This readiness would be "only in his dreams," but that dream would bring a great honor bestowed upon him, an honor for having faught and died nobly in the heat of purposeful battle. Finally, his heroic decision to continue through the battle turned out to make himself his own Hero because he somewhat saves his own life by not turning back or staying hidden in safety (Crane, 493).

Works Cited

Crane, Stephen. "from The Red Badge of Courage." Glencoe Literature. Ed. Jeffrey Wilhelm. American Literature ed. Colombus: McGraw-Hill, 2010. 493. Print.

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