In The Red Badge of Courage Henry Fleming, the main character grows up in a small town and signs up for the army against his mother will because he dreams of being a hero. Henry enlists in the 304th Regiment of New York Volunteers. However, after Henry joins the regiment he finds that his emotions are all mixed up. Henry wonders how he will act when confronted with enemy fire. In The Red Badge of Courage, Crane uses symbolism to show Henry s feeling of fear, humility, and courage. The Red Badge of Courage is laden with symbols and images (Crane, Stephen 2).
After Henry joins the army he has some doubts about how he will perform while in battle. Henry is afraid that once he sees the enemy he will run. In the beginning of The Red Badge of Courage Wilson symbolizes fear. Wilson is known as the loud soldier in the novel. At first Wilson tells Henry that he will fight well and not run away. Henry then asks him how he knows that he won t run from the battle. Wilson laughs and then leaves because he is mad at Henry for asking that question. However Wilson is also afraid. Before a battle he gives Henry a letter to give to his family after his death, for Wilson is sure he is about to die (Barron 1).
Both Henry and Wilson both have fear in them. Wilson is obnoxious, and does not realize how scared he is (The Red 6). Later, when Henry returns to the regiment he finds that Wilson has changed. Wilson does not seem to be afraid anymore and ask Henry for his letter back. The change in suggests that Henry will mature as well (The Red 6). The tattered soldier represents humility in The Red Badge of Courage. The tattered soldier does not have a name. Henry calls him the tattered soldier because of his serious wounds. The tattered soldier is wounded in the arm and head.
Henry envies the tattered soldiers wounds and wishes he had one to show. The tattered soldier ask Henry, Where yeh hit, ol boy? (Crane 32). Henry is embarrassed by this question and walks away until he can not see the tattered soldier. In the second battle Henry sees that the man next to him has suddenly stopped shooting and runs. Then he sees other men running. Henry panics because he feels that he is being left behind to fight by himself. He begins to run and imagines that the enemy is chasing him. Henry finds out later that there was no general retreat and that they have held the line.
During another battle a retreating soldier hits Henry in the head with a rifle. Henry tells Wilson that his wound is from a bullet. Henry now has a wound to match his inner wound of fear and shame (The Red 2). In The Red Badge of Courage Jim Conklin symbolizes courage. Jim is known in The Red Badge of Courage as the tall soldier. In the beginning of the novel Jim is down at the creek washing his shirt. Bloom states that, his shirt is like a flag (24). Henry asks Jim whether he thinks any of the soldiers will run from the battle. Jim says that some will run, but most will stay and fight.
He says that he will do what the majority of the men do. This reassures Henry and show Jim s courage. Jim however is shot the first day of battle. The next time Henry see Jim, Jim is dying. Jim does not mind that he is dying. Jim s only fear is that he will fall down in the road and artillery wagons will run over him. Jim dies horribly, but with dignity. When Jim dies the tattered soldier, is impressed by Jim s bravery (The Red 4). In The Red Badge of Courage, some readers identify Jim with Jesus Christ, and claim that his death absolves Henry of his sins of cowardice (The Red 4). Henry is redeemed by Jim s death (The Red 3).
Henry begins to fight bravely now. When the fighting begins, Henry begins to fight as hard as he can. As the enemy retreats he continues to fire until his fellow soldiers tell him he is shooting at nothing. The lieutenant is impressed by this action and Henry realizes that he is now a hero. Henry then leads the regiment forward in the front line. When the color sergeant is shot Henry and Wilson quickly grab the pole from falling to the ground. The flag symbolizes courage like Jim Conklin. Henry bears the flag heroically in the eyes of other men as he continues to defy his paralyzing fear of battle (Bloom 23).
Henry and Wilson continue to lead the regiment forward. Several men tell them that the colonel and a lieutenant have discussed their bravery and valor, and that they deserve to be major generals. Henry and Wilson are pleased by the colonel and lieutenant s recognition of their courage. Henry overcomes his fears and humility to become brave. He has fought bravely and his companions were aware of his bravery and spoke to him about it. He now feels like a man because of his courage in the battlefield. The regiment however retreats back to where they were two days before. Henry is now joyous of his experiences.