Homework Help

How does imagery contribute to the tone of each paragraph in The Red Badge of...

user profile pic

sokalex | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted January 25, 2013 at 10:40 PM via web

dislike 1 like

How does imagery contribute to the tone of each paragraph in The Red Badge of Courage?

"Presently the calm head of a forward-going column of infantry appeared in the road. It came swiftly on. Avoiding the obstructions gave it the sinuous movement of a serpent. The men at the head butted mules with their musket stocks. They prodded teamsters indifferent to all howls. The men forced their way through parts of the dense mass by strength. The blunt head of the column pushed. The raving teamsters swore many strange oaths.

The commands to make way had the ring of a great importance in them. The men were going forward to the heart of the din. They were to confront the eager rush of the enemy. They felt the pride of their onward movement when the remainder of the army seemed trying to dribble down this road. They tumbled teams about with a fine feeling that it was no matter so long as their column got to the front in time. This importance made their faces grave and stern. And the backs of the officers were very rigid.

As the youth looked at them the black weight of his woe returned to him. He felt that he was regarding a procession of chosen beings. The separation was as great to him as if they had marched with weapons of flame and banners of sunlight. He could never be like them. He could have wept in his longings.

He searched about in his mind for an adequate malediction for the indefinite cause, the thing upon which men turn the words of final blame. It--whatever it was--was responsible for him, he said. There lay the fault." 

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 26, 2013 at 2:19 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 2 like

As a Naturalist, Stephen Crane uses details that describe men having impulses that are similiar to animals, and in this first paragraph extracted from Chapter XI animal imagery is used.  The line of men that resembles a serpent--always a symbol of evil--push and prod their way forward by butting the mules and prodding teams of horses. The line, "The blunt head of the column pushed," reduces the men to an inanimate shape. In the first paragraph, animal imagery creates a tone that lacks any sentimentality and is somewhat ominous. 

Further, with more typically Naturalistic detail, there is also a sense of determinism as "[T]he commands to make way had the ring of a great importance in them" as the "eager rush of the enemy" approaches. And, as Henry looks at them, he sees them a "chosen beings"; this causes him to feel "the black weight of his woe," his fate to not be like them.  Clearly, there is a sense of an unalterable path for Henry in his despair through the use of the dreaded imagery of black.

The separation was as great to him as if they had marched with weapons of flame and banners of sunlight. He could never be like them. He could have wept in his longings.

That his fate is sealed is also connoted by the description of the "rigid" backs of the officers.

Finally, Henry wrestles for answers from an indifferent universe in the last paragraph cited above. He searches for "an adequate madediction for the indefinite cause."  Yet, this desperate search of Henry's in Chapter Xi is presented with a Naturalistic objective tone that belies the anxiety of Henry and the deadly significance of the men marching to the battle, an immovable force.

 

 

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes