A Main Message and Characters in The Red Badge of Courage

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The Red Badge of Courage is an account of the Civil Warin which Henry Fleming fights for the first time on the side of the Union army, leaving his mother and his farm to enlist. He is anxious for battle because he has heard many fantasies and joys about battle; this viewpoint will change as he fights. The main plot is the battle between the Union and the Confederates. During the first battle in which Henry fights, he fights decently, but during the second battle,he gets scared and runs away, battling his internal conflict; realizing that fighting the war may not be as great as it had sounded, while having mixed emotions of guilt and reason. Whilehe is wandering around in the forest, he finds out little bits and pieces of information from the war, which he is unsure who has won; he also finds a “tattered man”, and a group of wounded soldiers; among them is his good friend Jim Conklin, who dies from his battle wound. The climax occurs when Henry captures the Confederate flag; the resolution occurs when Henry and Wilson together lead their regiment to victory.Henry also reflects on his war experience and wonders if he is indeed a man of courage.

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Henry Fleming: Henry Fleming, the protagonist of the novel, abandons his mother and his farm to enlist. He fights on the side of the Union army against the Confederates. He changes his character as the novel carries on. As the novel starts, he is a very naïve young man, but near the end of the novel, he He is a round character because he wants to experience battle, but once he enlists, he is not so sure if the experience is a good one.He is also a complex character beacause in the beginning of the novel, he is very eager to fight the battle, but near the end of the novel, Henry has changed into a young man.He is also a dynamic character because he is a changed man, from young and naïve to mature and understanding. During the first battle, he and his regiment fight well, but during the second battle, he gets intimidated and runs away from the battlefield and into a forest. As he wanders around, he sees many people and gets some information about the battle, which he is not sure who has won. He finds a bunch of wounded soldiers laying on the ground and one of them is his good friend, Jim Conklin. He also runs into a tattered soldier, whom Henry finds annoying. His internal conflictis facing his own fears by going back to the regiment and fighting the war. We see Henry’s inner thoughts, "There was the delirium that encounters despair and death, and is heedless and blind to the odds. It is a temporary but sublime absence of selfishness".Near the end of the novel, he deserves his honor, that is courage, and finds that he has transformed into a man.

Wilson: Wilson, also a protagonist in this novel, is referred to as “the loud soldier”. He also changes a great deal during the course of the novel. In the beginning, he is very loud and talkative; when Henry comes back to the regiment, he has transformed into a quiet, caring person, which signifies that he is a roundand dynamiccharacter.He is also very boastful,“…and I didn't say I was the bravest man in the world, neither. I said I was going to do my share of fighting — that's what I said. And I am, too. Who are you, anyhow?You talk as if you thought you was Napoleon Bonaparte.”(26) When Henry comes back from wandering off, Wilsonshows compassion for him and offers his blanket, “Put ‘im t’ sleep in my blanket.”(104) This shows that Wilson is a complexcharacter; he is the soldier that he is and the compassionate person who cares for people. He is also more concerned with his inner thoughts than his reputation and his name. Wilson also helps Henry become a man. His asking of the envelope back from Henry symbolizesWilson’s mature state. At the end of the novel, when the two comrades capture the Confederate flag and raise the Union flag, it represents that they have both come a long way and can become men together, at last.

The Tattered Soldier: Henry meets “the tattered soldier”, another protagonist, while wandering through a mass of wounded soldiers. Henry finds him very irksome and garrulous. He tends to worry about superficial matters, such as Henry’s wound, which Henry doesn’t seem to care too much about. He is a very flat character because he doesn’t really know what is going on in the battle, who is winning. However, he is a complex character because he may seem like an annoying and talkative character, but he knows that Henry is hurting inside. All he wants is “some pea soup an’ a good bed.”(82) He refers to Henry as “Tom Jamison” who was a neighbor of the tattered soldier’s. Henry abandons him because of his nagging manner. The tattered soldier’s longing for friends suggests that he is not well fit for the brutal nature of the war. “…ain’t — ain't right—it ain't.”(85)

Jim Conklin: Another protagonist, Jim Conklin “the tall soldier” serves as a contrast to Henry; Jim is experienced and mature, whereas Henry is naïve and immature. he is a flatcharacter because throughout the novel, he never changes. He doesn’t digress into the fantasies of war, unlike Henry. He is still the leader of his regiment, and performs his task, never freaking out. When Henry asks Jim if he would run away, he says that he might run, if other people run away, which implies that he is a pragmatist. Jim is impatient of Wilson’s loudness and Henry’s foolishness,”Oh, shut up! You little fool. You little damn' cuss. You ain't had that there coat and them pants on for six months, and yet you talk as if —” (36) Jim is a stereotyped character because he is the typical calm and quiet man that he is. Jim is a calm and relaxed character throughout the novel, which makes him a static character. While he is at the verge of his death, he remains peaceful, “Leave me be — don’t tech me — leave me be.”(79) This shows that even when he is dying, he wants to die alone. Jim’s death symbolizes Henry’s development into a mature man.

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