Henry Flemings Instincts and Responsibility

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Henry Fleming’s Instincts and Responsibility Stephens Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, is an epic tale of a young man’s journey through the American civil war. Courage, manhood, and self-preservation are all major themes in The Red Badge of Courage. However many critics like James Nagel believe “his continuing inability to see himself and battle clearly dominates the center of the novel” (Nagel 89). Henry’s inability to see himself, cause him to lose control over his human instincts. The main character, Henry Fleming, is forced to struggle against his natural instincts in order to fulfill his responsibilities as a soldier. The main character Henry Fleming is not in control of his natural instincts, affecting him in both a negative and positive way. Henry is a young man from the Northern United States. Henry has never fought in a war and has never even been far from home. A virgin to war, Henry finds himself running away from the enemy because of his “sense of self-preservation” (Wolford 120). Henry is forced into a situation he has no control over, like Critic Charles C. Walcutt says, “Crane simply shows how a sequence of events take place quite independent of the wills and judgments of the people involved” (Walcutt 205). What Walcutt is trying to say is, regardless of what Henry wanted to do; he was caught up in the situation and had no control over his actions. This lack of control does not always affect Henry in a negative way, however. For instance, in chapter seventeen, Henry fights courageously when “he went instantly forward, like a dog who, seeing his foes lagging, turns and insists in being pursued” (Crane 72). Up to this scene Henry was still frightened of battle. When he is pursued into this corner and given no other option, he explodes “with all his strength”(Crane 72). He could not force himself to act like this or he would have done so earlier in

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