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 is naturalism in "The Red Badge of Courage" and how does it relate to fear and survival?

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Naturalism is a view that man is often controlled by forces he cannot control. There are many examples of this view in "The Red Badge of Courage", but several incidents are often used to support the naturalistic elements of the novel. The first thing we notice is that the men waiting in the Union camp have absolutely no control over when they are going into battle. There are many rumors, but the men have no control is actually deciding when they will be put in a life and death situation. In addition, when they finally are forced into battle, there seems to be no fairness as to who is killed and who survives. Jim Conklin suffers a terrible death even though he had been one of the most noble soldiers in the camp. Henry flees the battle and should not be rewarded for his cowardice. However, after being struck in the head by another Union soldier, everyone thinks he has his "red badge of courage". When Henry makes it back to his regiment, the men there are celebrating their victory. This feeling becomes hollow after Henry and Wilson overhear the officer calling their regiment "a bunch of mule drivers". Finally, as you read the book, you will notice that nature seems really undisturbed by all the fighting. Life goes on normally for the animals while the human continue to destroy themselves.

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