Essay on The Changing Role of the Hero in The Red Badge of Courage
With Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, the concept of the heroic figure begins to shift farther away from clearly defined characteristics. The idea of a single individual rising up to heroically conquer in any situation lost favor with the changing views of the nineteenth century leading Crane to address as a theme "the quandary of heroism in an unheroic age" (Beaver 67) by creating in Henry Fleming a figure both heroic and non-heroic all in one. His exploration of the concepts of courage and cowardice shows them to be opposite sides of the same coin as evidenced in the heroic figure.
Through Henry's progression in thoughts, Crane explores this …show more content…
By addressing the specific aspect of heroism in battle, Crane presents the victim as a hero (Beaver 72) or perhaps, conversely, the hero as a victim. When Henry flees the battle he does not do so thinking himself a coward, but rather, a wise person who recognizes overwhelming odds. Later after his head is wounded and bandaged, the wound and bandage become his "red badge" reminding him of his inadequacy when the moment of battle came, his lack of courage, his cowardice. He feels shamed. However, after being reunited with his unit, he finds himself again in battle where to fight against the fear of cowardice and shame he takes on a leading role of bravery. It is as though the shame of cowardice gives birth to the bravery of heroism. "In the end he [Henry] sees that he is neither a hero nor a villain, that he must assume the burdens of a mixed, embattled, impermanent, modest, yet prevailing humanity. He has discovered courage" (Credy 142). Ultimately, his ability to put the sin of cowardice at a distance allowed him to reach the point of conviction that in facing his fear he had won and that "[h]e was a man" (Crane 211); he at least reached the point where "[h]e had rid himself of the red sickness of battle" (Crane 212).
This conflict with man's