.. 18). His joy irritates Henry, who challenges Wilson, saying that he may well run when the battle comes. Wilson replies cooly, Oh, that’s all true, I s’pose . .
. but I’m not going to skedaddle. The man that bets on my running will lose his money, that’s all (19). Henry is not the only one experiencing problems with bravery. Despite his outward appearance, Wilson is similarly insecure and fears fighting in the upcoming battle. He copes with his fright in a different manner than Henry.
Rather than ponder over his fears, Wilson obnoxiously exhibits that he feels sure of himself. In fact, just before the battle begins, Wilson hands Henry a packet of letters for his family after his death, for Wilson is certain he is about to be killed. By the battle’s end, Wilson matures and develops. The loud soldier is not more. The narrator now calls him the friend.
In other words, he has fundamentally changed to the point that he needs a new name. Henry notices these changes himself. Wilson becomes irritated easily, and is no longer interested in demonstrating his valor. The loud soldier who boasts about how well he will fight but through battle gains a sense of tranquillity. The Red Badge of Courage is not simply one of the earliest realistic novels about war, it is a poetic fable about the attempt of a young man to discover a real identity in battle(Red Badge viii). To begin, the Civil War’s hardships compel Henry Fleming into a journey of self-discovery, and it is not until an act of nature that he realizes the true courage that he has deep down within his soul. As the novel opens, Henry, determined and anxious to fight in the war, fantasizes grand battles and heroic struggles for life and death; neither the Union cause nor the possibility of cowardice arise in his initial thoughts of battle.
He knows that he wants what is best for his regiment and for himself. However, once he leaves home, Henry’s visions of glory sink quickly as he becomes concerned about his potential. While lying in his tent, realizing that he has finally about to enter his first battle, it occurs to Henry that perhaps in a battle he might run. This is where, as I have mentioned earlier, Henry begins to have selfish thoughts about his own fate, which, like in The Open Boat with all of those characters, is only natural. Henry, searching for some reassurances, begins to talk to and question some of the other soldiers in his regiment.
It is evident that Henry wants to be a legendary hero like the ones he has read about, but at the same time, his fears nag at him, making him doubt his own self-confidence. He questions his fellow soldiers in an attempt to gain some confirmation on his anxieties and wonders whether they will accept him later should he run from the battle. When he does not find the answers that he is looking for he begins to feel very frightened, alone, and even more confused about what he believes he will do. Finally, the army moves and Henry gets his first look at battle. Henry stands and fights like most of the other men in his regiment during the first skirmish of the day, but by the time the day’s second skirmish rolls around, Henry is exhausted and terrified.
He sees two men near him throw down their weapons and run, so Henry also threw down his gun and fled. There was no shame in his face. He ran like a rabbit (39). Instantly, it seems that Henry feels that he has acted out of cowardice and tries to justify his flight in his own mind. He convinces himself that the regiment was about to be defeated and that’s why he ran.
In reality, the regiment fought off the Confederate Army and won the battle. In his flight from battle and effort to rejoin his regiment, a change begins to occur in him. Over and over in his mind he tries to justify his actions and reassure himself that he had not run out of cowardice. At one point while walking through the forest, Henry receives a sort of reassurance from nature. He threw a pine cone at a squirrel and it (the squirrel) ran with chattering fear (45).
To Henry this meant that running in the face of danger is a natural instinct and did not arise from cowardice. This omen from nature was the reassurance that changed his attitude towards his entire task at hand. This chattering fear of the frightened squirrel, fleeing when Henry Fleming throws a pine cone at him, parallels the plight of the hero under shellfire(Omnibus 417). When Henry finally rejoins his fellow troops, he seems to be changed. Again, not too long after Henry got there, the regiment was yet again thrust into battle. This time Henry stood his ground.
He stayed up on the front line and even continued to fire even after all those around him had ceased. Henry had become so fierce during this second battle. He realizes that he had been a barbarian, a beast (99). In his mind, Henry feels that he has become a hero yet he had been oblivious to the process. He was forced to admit that as far as war was concerned he knew nothing of himself (10). Crane communicates the initial stage of Henry’s transformation when Henry expresses uncertainty of who he is. This also relates to the fact that he wants to make a difference.
One can only be lead to believe that he was thinking of not only saving himself here, but the lives of his comrades. He then comes across a dead man leaning beside a tree. Crane notes Henry’s reaction to the corpse: The youth gave a shriek as he confronted the thing. He was for moments turned to stone before it. He remained staring into the liquid-looking eyes.
The dead man and the living man exchanged a long look. Then the youth cautiously put one hand behind him and brought it against a tree. Leaning upon this he retreated, step by step, with his face still toward the thing (64). Because the squirrel fled from the pine cone, Henry believes nature’s law to be that threatened animals flee from danger. Now, Henry reaches a place in the forest that resembles a chapel, an incredible metaphor for the heart of nature.
Here, he realizes that the image of the decaying man truly reflects the laws of naturenot the fleeing squirrel, but the death he had been trying so hard to escape from at the battle site. When the dead soldier and the living one stand facing each other, the young soldier realizes that although he can cowardly run from a battle, he can not evade the fate of death; a fate, not only that he will encounter, but his fellow soldiers will endure as well. Here, he realizes that if he doesnt fight as one with the other soldiers, nature, moreover death, will have the final say as to the fate of them all. Towards the end of the novel, the final charge begins. Henry, almost not even realizing it, has taken control of the entire regiment and is leading them to victory.
It is his courage and will that allow him to keep going, yelling come on, come on, leading his comrades to victory. During the final battle, Henry runs like a madman . . . and the scene[is] a wild blur. Pulsating saliva [stands] at the corners of his mouth (89). Henry’s madness is derived from the pressures of war.
The pressures from the commanders and the enemies make him speed forward toward the firing guns. Thus, Henry, aware that he must face some form of death, moves beyond his terrified and cautious childhood that prompted him to desert the first battle early on, and, instead, courageously rushes to rescue the falling American flag. Henry feels it is his personal duty to save that which represents his regiment’s achievements and is a tangible sign of their success. He risks being shot at, for he is an easy target, and displays courage and willpower. He feels love for the flag and feels it his duty to save this flag, which represents all that he and his comrades are fighting for.
It is here, that Henry has finally realized the importance of companionship with his fellow soldiers; without all of them fighting together, they all would have died. It is evident that in both of these stories, this theme of companionship is strong. Whether it be on the battlefield or in the sea, one relies on another to make it through. Through Crane, I have also shown that as important as comradeship is, one will ultimately think about themselves first and think of how one can save himself. It isnt until some act of nature enlightens those characters into being lead away from the selfish thoughts that ran through the minds of these men, and make them concentrate on the whole picture and makes these characters realize that they need each other in order for survival.
Again, whether it be on the ocean trying to stay alive, or on the battlefield trying to help out the cause, nature has the ultimate say in how one will react to any given situation. Works Cited Crane, Stephen. Great Short Works of Stephen Crane. Harper And Row, Publishers. New York.
1965, 1968. (Great) Crane, Stephen. Maggie and Other Stories. The Modern Library. New York.
1933. (Maggie) Crane, Stephen. An Omnibus. Alfred Knopf, Inc. New York. 1952. (Omnibus) Crane, Stephen.
The Red Badge of Courage. Oxford University Press. New York. 1969. (Red Badge) Stallman, R.W. Stephen Crane A Biography.
George Braziller. New York. 1968. (Biography) English Essays.