Kaitlin Alzapiedi Honors English 10 Mrs. Shloegl 8th Period 17 October 2010 Red Badge of Courage Final Essay Henry varies in maturity levels from the beginning of the book until the end of the book. In order for Henry to mature, he must experience fear. He witnesses death and war on a gruesome level, but he needs to do so in order to become an adult. In the beginning, Henry is immature; he thinks war is about being a hero and being glorified. He is extremely selfish, only focuses on himself, and does not show concern for what his mother says about war.
He soon starts to question himself and his loyalty. He believes that he will be filled with doubt and run away like a coward. Henry’s unrealistic, romantic views on war are quickly changed in the first battle. His first battle experience was not good because his nerves took over and he panicked. He runs in fear of battle and he had to lie about his injury. He realizes his view was completely wrong and unrealistic because war is not as glorified as he once thought. He now knows that war is dreadful and you need to stay strong mentally and physically.
He thought war was full of heroic soldiers that got nothing but respect from the people they are fighting for. Soon after Henry’s revelation it is stated, “He suddenly lost concern for himself, and forgot to look at a menacing fate. He became not a man but a member. He felt that something of which he was a part – a regiment, an army, a cause, or a country – was in crisis. ” (Crane 34) This quote shows that Henry comprehended that he was a part of something bigger then himself. After he runs in fear, he meets the tattered man. He was a wounded man who tries to befriend Henry when he runs away from battle.
They watch Jim Conklin die together which is Henry’s first emotional experience with death, and the stranger helps Henry through the pain. The tattered mad repeatedly asks Henry where he has been shot, suspecting his fake injury. This quote shows that Henry is still arrogant and over confident. “And, furthermore, how could they kill him who was the chosen of gods and doomed to greatness? ” (Crane 81). Henry leaves the man wandering aimlessly to die alone, a fact that later disturbs Henry. He is afraid to return to camp and to lie about his fake injury, but he does anyways. He feels guilt and learns remorse, he starts to grow up and change.
Henry admits to himself that he was a coward but he also knows that he has changed. Henry is now a modest and proud young man. He is willing to stay and fight for his country and he shows selfless courage. He sees the reality of war and he is concerned about others. He starts to learn that he does not need a “Red Badge of Courage” or a wound, to show his bravery. His greatest regret was how he treated the tattered man and his guilt affects him greatly. He realizes his mistake and knew it would bother him forever, “He saw his vivid error, and he was afraid that it would stand before him all his life. (Crane 142). He realizes that he made mistakes and he needs to move on, but it will be hard. He risks his life and does not think about his old idea of war and dreams of becoming a hero. Henry is a completely different and transformed person at the end of this novel. He learns so much in a few days, when it can take other people years to discover. Henry and his reactions to certain situations can teach readers what war was like for soldiers. It can teach everyone how young men react to war, the Civil War is different from the wars going on today but the perceived ideas are similar.
In this age boys join the military thinking it will be like video games but in Henry’s days boys wanted to join war based on being heroes. Most men come out of war, not as heroes, but they grow up. Expectations of war will vary depending on your background knowledge of what you are fighting for. No one knows what war is like, unless you have first hand experiences. As soon as Henry gained these experiences, he had a lot more insight.
Bibliography Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage. Pleasantville, NY: Reader’s Digest Association, 1982. Print.