How does the character Henry, from The Red Badge of Courage, compare and contrast to Robert, from the movie Glory?

Expert Answers
dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aside from the fact that Henry Fleming in The Red Badge of Courage and Robert Gould Shaw from the movie Glory are both soldiers in the Union Army during the American Civil War, they are very different characters. Henry is an entirely fictional character, while Robert was a man who truly lived. Henry is much younger in age during the course of the narrative in which we meet him, a poor young farm boy in his early teens from the state of New York. In contrast, Robert hails from an affluent Boston family, and is much older in the movie, a Union officer in his mid-twenties.

Both men experience fear in their war dealings. Henry, whose thoughts are revealed to the reader, is terrified when thrown into battle, having had only a romantic, unreal concept about what war is really all about. Robert feels fear as well, as expressed by his demeanor when riding his horse along the beach before undertaking his final, fatal assignment. His fear is tempered and controlled, however; he is an officer, a man of proven integrity and courage, no longer callow like young Henry.

The difference in maturity between the two characters is striking. Robert Shaw, though still young, is a leader of men, someone who is looked up to, and upon whose shoulders rests a huge responsibility. Henry is at the other end of the spectrum, the raw recruit who has little control over circumstance and his response to it. Finally, Robert dies in Glory, while Henry in Red Badge of Courage lives to fight another day.

bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Henry Fleming and Robert Gould Shaw experience the camaraderie of being a part of a fighting unit in their respective stories. Henry's fear of battle comes in part because of his worry that he will not hold his own individually. When he sees that others in the regiment show fear and "skedaddle" when the action becomes too hot, he recognizes that his limitations are not his alone. When he feels a part of the regiment as a whole, his fears are vanquished. Shaw never finds a home in the Union army until he is promoted and appointed commander of the all-African-American 54th Massachusetts. Combined with his abolitionist views, the pairing becomes a perfect fit. In the end, he finds the heroism of his troops so overwhelming that he joins them in the forefront of their suicidal attack on Fort Wagner. In a fitting end, he is buried in a mass grave with his troops on the beach.

Read the study guide:
The Red Badge of Courage

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question