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The protagonist and third person narrator of The Red Badge of Courage is Henry Fleming, a young farm boy who joins the army during the Civil War because he wants to be a hero.
The Red Badge of Courage is more of a documentary than a movie. It uses striking naturalism to describe things exactly as they are “seen,” through the filter of poetic naiveté. Henry Fleming does influence the way the story is told. There may be nothing between the reader and Henry, but there is plenty between Henry and reality.
For most of the book, we do not even know Henry’s name. He is usually referred to as “the youth.”
The youth was in a little trance of astonishment. So they were at last going to fight. On the morrow, perhaps, there would be a battle, and he would be in it. For a time he was obliged to labor to make himself believe. (ch 1)
Henry was no idea what he has gotten himself into. He joined the war to become a hero, not because he had any deep-felt commitment to the cause. In fact, he spends most of his time as a soldier just worrying about being a coward.
He imagined the whole regiment saying: "Where's Henry Fleming? He run, didn't 'e? Oh, my!" (ch 11)
Henry is definitely naïve, but he is also selfish and self-centered. At war in one of the most serious battles, he thinks only of himself. He is incapable of thinking of anyone else, or of the big picture.
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