The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

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What challenging or stressful situations does Henry face in The Red Badge of Courage?

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In The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane treats with his characteristic irony the epic myth in which the hero travels to the underworld where his innermost fears are challenged and from which he emerges in a rebirth to a higher self by having Henry Fleming come out virtually unchanged, or worse in behavior, if anything.  

Here are some of the situations in which Henry finds himself challenged:

  • Henry is anxious about going into battle, afraid that his rifle will not fire, worried that he may run when the fighting begins. "The strain of present circumstances he felt to be intolerable." ( III)
  • Once the battle begins, Henry worries that he may "run better than the best of them." (IV)
  • The war atmosphere bothers Henry: He begins to sweat. He has "jolted dreams." He wants to make a "world-sweeping gesture" and feels frustrated that he cannot engage in combat.
  • When he sees the number of the soldiers in the Confederate army, Henry is afraid, hoping that support will come. "To the youth it was an onslaught of redoubtable dragons." (VI)
  • As the other men "scamper away," Henry, too, runs, shouting with fright."
  • Henry fears death "about to smite him between the eyes." (VI)
  • After having run away and then seen that the soldiers have won the battle after all, Henry worries that he will be charged as a deserter. He worries about what will be said when he returns to camp. (VII)
  • As he head back, Henry encounters "a tattered man" who walks aside him, asking Henry where he is hit. This situation causes him anxiety, and he tries to break through the crowd. (VIII)
  • Henry worries still about being a deserter; he wishes he could have a wound, a "red badge of courage." (IX)
  • Henry encounters a man he knows named Jim Conkin, who is dying; he begs to be pulled out of the road so that the wagons will not run over him; this makes "the youth...reached an...

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