Illustration of Henry Fleming in a soldier's uniform in front of a confederate flag and an American flag

The Red Badge of Courage

by Stephen Crane

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What does "his visions of broken-bladed glory" mean in The Red Badge of Courage?

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Henry has visions of performing heroic deeds on the field of battle. A young man without any direct experience of conflict, he romanticizes war, seeing it as an adventure, a glorious, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to prove his manhood.

Although the weapon of choice in the Civil War is the rifle, Henry still entertains boyish fantasies of engaging the enemy with swords, just like the knights of old. He doubtless imagines himself achieving glory in conflict by cutting down one enemy combatant after another with his trusty sword until, eventually, its blade breaks, proving his extraordinary courage and showing his admiring comrades just how hard he's fought.

But as Henry will soon discover, to his horror, the harsh realities of war are very different from his romantic fantasies. To be sure, he will still become a big hero, but not in the way he imagined. There will be no broken blades.

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