Red Badge of Courage: Summary and Character Analysis

Stephen Crane has written many remarkable poems, short stories, and novels throughout his short life (He lived only to the age of 29). The Red Badge of Courage is a tale of war, life, responsibility, and duty. It has been considered the first "great modern novel of war"(Alfred Kazin). It traces the effects of war on Henry Fleming, a Union soldier, through his dreams of battle, his enlistment, and his experience through serveral battles of the Civil War.

Henry, "the youth", was a young man who lived on a farm with his mother. He dreamed about what fighting in a war would be like, and dreamed of being a hero. He dreamed of the battles of war, and of what it would be like to fight in those glorious battles. His mother was a wise, caring woman who had strong convictions about not wanting Henry to goto war. She is a very hardworking woman, and loves her son a great deal. She gave him hundreds of reasons why he was needed on the farm and not in the war. Henry knew his mother would not want him to enlist, but it was his decision to make. He dreamed of the battles of war, and of what it would be like to fight in those glorious battles. He didn't want to stay on the farm with nothing to do, so he made his final decision to enlist.

After enlisting he finds himself in a similar situation, with nothing to do. While there he becomes friends with two other soldiers, John Wilson, "the loud soldier / "the friend" and Jim Conklin, "the tall soldier". Wilson was a loud spoken and obnoxious soldier who becomes one of Henry's best friends. Jim was a tall soldier and was a childhood friend of Henry's. He was always calm and matter-of-fact like. He also loves pork sandwiches as that is all he eats. Wilson was as excited about going to war as Henry, while Jim was confident about the success of the new regiment. Wilson is acts very confident, and boasts of how well he will fight. After a few days of marching, Henry realizes that they have been wandering about aimlessly in circles. They continue to march wothout purpose, direction, and fighting. During this time Henry starts to think diffrently about war, amore close experienced way. He starts to lose some of his ideals of war, and starts to become scared of running away from a batlle. Lieutenant Hasbrouck, a young lieutenant of the 304th regiment (Henry's regiment), is an extremely brave man. He also is constantly cursing. He, unlike the other officers, cares about and defends his troops performance and makes sure they get the recognition they deserve. He is a true leader and he is a model of what Henry and Wilson wish to become.

After a while the regiment finally discovers a battle taking place. Jim gives Henry a yellow envelope with a packet inside. He is confident that he will die, and says that this will be his first and last battle. The regiment manages to hold off the rebels during the first attack, but the rebels like machines of steel; relentlessly came back again and again with reinforcements driving the soldiers back. Henry becomes scared, confused, and goes into a trance when he sees his forces depleting. He finally gets up and starts to run like a "proverbial chicken", who has lost the direction of safety.

After he has run away he starts to anaylze himself and rationalize his actions. At first he thinks himself a a coward for running, and later he feels he was just saving himself for later. He thinks nature does not want him to die, eventhough his side was losing. He believes he was intelligent to run, and hopes he will die in battle to spite. Henry, still running, is met by a "tattered soldier" and he comes upon Jim who has been wounded badly. He does not complain about his pain, but asks Henry to move him out the road so he is not run over by artillery wagons. Even in his agony, he is concered about Henry and asks how he is faring. As his death grew nearer, Jim runs into a field looking for a suitable place to die. He ignores Henry's