Red Badge Of CourageAdolescence brings about many changes as a youth becomes an adult. For manypeople this passage is either tedious and painful or simple and barelynoticeable. The anguish and torture that is usually associated with rites ofpassage and growing up is often used in literature, as it is common and easilyunderstood. In The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane, the character HenryFleming survives the Civil War, which serves as his rite of passage as itteaches him the importance of things such as dreams, companionship, dignity,individualism, and, of course, courage.
In the beginning of the novel, Henry isdetermined and eager to fight in war, which is his dream and goal. From all thetales told by others of fighting and glory, he can not help but idolize the dutyof the soldier and aspire to become the very same soldier. Once he leaves home,he starts to feel the indescribable feeling, like a rush of excitement andanxiety at the same time. His entire future is ahead of him, and he is walkingtowards it with open arms. Unfortunately, his dreams are virtually shatteredtime and time again as he fights on in battle. Eventually, Henry is faced withthe ultimate enemy ? himself.Order now
He begins to doubt his own self-confidence andwonders whether he will stay and fight or run when faced with death and war atthe battlefields. He questions his fellow soldiers and doubts whether they willaccept him later should he run from the battle. What will they do? Will they runor stay? If he runs and the other soldiers don’t, what will they think of him?Such questions suggest the constant dilemma experienced by most adolescents,which would be conformity, peer pressure, and acceptance. Henry eventually fleesfrom the scene, reexamines himself and his thoughts, and musters up the courageto return to the battlefield. This is part of growing up ? facing your fearsand giving it another shot.
Henry also learns the importance of companionshipand its limits, which plays an important part in anyone’s life as friends areone of life’s greatest treasures. Henry promised his friend Jim Conklin thathe’d take care of him. This promise lasts only for a moment since JohnConklin, insisting on being alone all the while, dies. Jim’s sudden deathteaches Henry that friends can only do so much, but are equally important tolife as they are consistent pillars of strength that one can rely on. Later,Henry becomes more of a man in the sense that he lies about the story behind hishead wound.
This may seem awkward, but carefully looking at the situation Henrylearns the importance of one’s dignity and pride. He is aware that wordtravels quickly and he saves himself from humiliation and tells a small whitelie so that his dignity is preserved. Towards the end of the novel Henrydiscards the expectations of his peers and declares his individuality andcourage by seizing the flag from the dead color sergeant and waving it in frontof the regiment. He risks being shot at ? as he is an easy target ? and thusdisplays his courage and willpower. This seizing of the flag is Henry’sultimate rite of passage. He discards his terrified and cautious childhood andbecomes an experienced, courageous individual.
In conclusion, Henry’s rite ofpassage is, generally, the Civil War. It teaches him the hardships of life anddraws out the courage deep down within his soul. Henry, at first, is timid andanxious about his potential and what would the others think about him. Later, heignores everything around and focuses on the Union flag. His reaching out forthe flag proves to himself that he is just as brave and courageous as thosesoldiers whose stories dazzled him as a boy.
He is that very soldier.