Just imagine leaving home and entering a terrifying, disturbing battlefield.
Life becomes very different and constitutes mostly of uncertainty about life and death. Ground is covered with dead bodies and blood making the bravest soldier look at life with a different perspective. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane is a book about the psychology of a soldier, Henry Fleming, in the midst of Civil War. The standards of the war are very harsh for Henry but he comes through and becomes a man. These standards catch up to the protagonist and completely change his personality from vain to selfless.
It swings from individualism to total commitment to his regiment. Henry Fleming believes in the traditional models of courage, honor, and glory. He romanticizes the image of dying in war as the Greek tradition of a soldier coming with his shield or on it. His vain fantasies soon change as he enters the battlefield. The battlefield is very arduous for Henry and the standards are very rigid.
The environment is unknown with different sounds, smells, and sights. Duties have to be accomplished in a precise manner or death is imminent. The ability of one person is not important but rather the teamwork and discipline of a unit is necessary. Individualism is frowned upon while group cohesion is praised because it is the only way to achieve victory. The officers’ orders must be followed precisely by the soldiers because it is vital to achieve success in combat. The soldiers are indifferent to any one man’s death because it’s a daily occurrence in war.
During battle, honor is irrelevant because the only thoughts in everybody’s mind are surviving and killing the enemy. Although Henry doesn’t grow older, there is a profound change from youth to maturity during the novel due to his realization of the standards of war. The innocence is replaced by experience and his naïve beliefs are transformed into strong convictions of a soldier. When the youth runs away from his second battle, Henry believes that it’s the right thing to do. He believes the welfare of the entire army depends on his survival. However when he sees the dead soldier, Henry wonders about the insignificance of individual life.
He realizes that if he dies the army will have another man to.