In chapter 2 what is the "serpent"?The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Part of Stephen Crane's stylistic methods in The Red Badge of Courage is his use of symbolism and imagery.  In Chapter 2, for instance, Crane writes of the "red eyes across the river," the fires of the enemy camp.  This image connotes the predatory nature of the enemy who wishes to kill those in the army with Henry Fleming. Furthering this use of animal imagery, Crane describes the marching regiments as "crawling reptiles"; moreover, Henry's regiment is likened to a serpent "crawling from the cavern of the night."  That is, the regiment moves from its safe cavern out into the night in order to find its next victim.  The soldiers marching in file are likened to the muscles of the serpernt who move in unison propelling the serpent forward.  Of course, the reader cannot miss the suggestion of evil with such an image of a snake. Along with the "red eyes" and the "rushing yellow (a color symbolic of evil) of the developing day," the sinister connotations of war are conveyed.  In addition, the movement of the "serpent" also suggests the deterministic point of view of Stephen Crance as a Naturalistic author. 

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