The Character Of Henry Fleming In The Red Badge Of Courage

1633 Words7 Pages
The Red Badge of Courage is often perceived by readers as a story of a young inexperienced and fearful boy, Henry Fleming, who eventually transforms into a courageous war hero. There are, however, fragments of the novel which suggest that the change in Henry’s mind is minimal, including the fact that the book covers only quite a short period of time. From some perspectives, developing courage in a form of losing self-preservation is the only change Henry undergoes, and otherwise remains the same person as in the beginning of the novel. The first part of the book, as W.B.Dillingham points out, deals with “the anatomy of cowardice”. Henry Fleming enlists in the army as a young and immature soldier dreaming about becoming a veteran and gaining…show more content…
In the heat of battle, he completely forgets about his previous anxiety, a “red rage” overtakes him and the regiment and they successfully force the enemies to fall back. The real test of Henry’s courage is yet to come though – when the enemies charge back a moment later, Henry is frightened by their confidence: “He began to exaggerate the endurance, the skill, and the valor of those who were coming. Himself reeling from exhaustion, he was astonished beyond measure at such persistency.”(31) He panics and flees from the battle. Afterwards, Henry finds out that his regiment defeated the enemy without him and becomes even more anxious. He tries to justify his deeds by claiming that escaping danger is completely natural, and proves it by tossing a pine cone at a squirrel, which then runs away with fear to a treetop. He believes that it is the universal truth that each being does whatever it takes, including running from danger, in order to preserve itself. Henry’s urgency for self-preservation, which accompanied him until now, begins to ebb away on behalf of his desire to have a good reputation as he comes across a crowd of wounded men marching on the road. He is envious of their injuries – red badges of courage – and wishes to have one, too. “At times he regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He conceived persons with torn bodies to be peculiarly happy. He wished that he, too, had a wound, a red badge of courage.”…show more content…
Macmillan Publishers Limited, 2011. Web. 12 June 2011. Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage. Ware: Wordsworth Classics. 1994. Print. Dillingham, William B. “Insensibility in the Red Badge of Courage.” College English 25.3 (1963): 194-198. JSTOR. Web. 12 June 2011. McDermott, John J. “Symbolism and Psychological Realism in The Red Badge of Courage.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 23.2 (1968): 324-331. JSTOR. Web. 12 June 2011. Reynolds, Kirk M. “The Red Badge of Courage: Private Henry’s Mind as Sole Point of View.” South Atlantic Review 52.1 (1987): 59-69. JSTOR. Web. 12 June 2011. Solomon, Eric. “A Gloss on The Red Badge of Courage.” Modern Language Notes 75.2 (1960): 111-113. JSTOR. Web. 12 June

More about The Character Of Henry Fleming In The Red Badge Of Courage

Open Document