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Red Badge of Courage

Adolescence brings about many changes as a youth becomes an adult. For many people this passage is either tedious and painful or simple and barely noticeable. The anguish and torture that is usually associated with rites of passage and growing up is visible is Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage. Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, the novel reveals how the atrocities of war precipitate emotional growth and maturity, as well as acts dignity, individualism, and, of course, courage. In the course of the novel, Henry Fleming, a young soldier from New York State, gives up his romantic dreams of war once he makes it through the trials of battle and begins to understand the true meaning of courage. The experience of war transforms even Wilson, a loud, headstrong, and proud soldier, to overcome his anxiety and to mature into manhood. Lastly, the challenges of war bring out the best of Jim Conklin, Henry's friend from home, who displays saintly, unself-conscious bravery, as well as Henry's mother and Lieutenant Hasbrouck. For all five characters, war turns out to be more gruesome and inhumane than ever imagined, just as courage turns out to be a matter of animal instinct rather than individual grace.To begin, the Civil War's hardships compel Henry Fleming into a journey of self-discovery and draws out the courage 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. 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 was finally about to enter his first battle, it occurs to Henry ". . . that perhaps in a battle he might run. He was forced to admit that as far as war was concerned he knew nothing of himself" (...

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