Metaphors And Similes In Stephen Crane's The Red Badge Of Courage

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A Story About War

Stephen Crane 's The Red Badge of Courage presents a unique view of the Civil War through the point of view of a soldier, Henry Fleming. By using this point of view, readers see the realities of war from someone experiencing them rather than the typical unfeeling articles by those who were never on the front lines.

One strategy that Crane uses to create this vivid image of war is the use of figurative language, specifically similes and metaphors.

Let 's explore these literary terms and their use in this novel.

Definition of Metaphor and Simile

Metaphors and similes are two examples of figurative language used by many writers to add visual appeal and help readers make connections with the characters and events of the story.
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An example of a simile is: 'The street was LIKE a pool of lava due to the hot, summer weather. '

Now, let 's see how Stephen Crane uses these techniques in his writing.


Beginning with the title, Crane uses a metaphor to describe his feelings about war. The 'red badge of courage ' is really the wound that a soldier receives in battle. Even though Crane 's character, Henry, glorifies this sign of honor, he soon realizes that a red badge of courage often means pain, horror, and death.

As early as chapter 2, Crane includes this simile when describing the squad: 'they were like two serpents crawling from the cavern of the night. ' Notice how he compares men to serpents as they might crawl on the ground at night. Serpent implies a dangerous or evil creature, so this image is meant to suggest unfriendly men.

This comparison of the men to animals continues in chapter 3 when Crane describes them using this metaphor: 'The regiment slid down a bank and wallowed across a little stream. ' Again, these are not men, but animals, suggesting they are not acting
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' These images of Henry are not courageous, but rather, they show a man who is either frightened or floundering in his attempts to act.

In chapter 8, he describes the war using the metaphor, 'crimson roar. ' Since red can be synonymous with anger, rage, and even blood, comparing the war to crimson (the brightest and deepest of the reds) shows the strength of the comparison. A roar is not a quiet or faint sound, but rather one of loudness or excitement. Using this metaphor, he establishes his negative feelings about war.

In chapter 17, when Henry has changed into something better than when he entered the war, Crane describes his transformation using these metaphors: 'By this struggle, he had overcome obstacles which he had admitted to be mountains. They had fallen like paper peaks, and he was now what he called a hero '. Here, the obstacles are compared to mountains, but they are mountains of paper, suggesting they were not really challenging obstacles at all. When those paper mountains fall, he is what he calls a hero, even though what he had to overcome was not terribly

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