Red Badge of Courage, Essay Example

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Essay

It is clear that Henry is worried about how he will fare in his first battle.  Instead of running away from it, he welcomes it, writing to his family about his oncoming battle.  Wanting to make his parents proud, he zealously displays his bravery in the letter, eager to fight.

Of course, there is a respectable amount of anxiety in Henry.  Running on adrenaline, passion, and pride, Henry does not fail to fight in the first battle.  However, things aren’t the same for the second battle.  Henry does not successfully fight in the second battle, succumbing to the fear that others share – such as in Jim Conklin’s “zeal of an insane sprinter.”  Viewed in regards to the activities in the battles, though, it is easy to see how Henry changed from the first to the second battle.

There is a marked difference between the internal struggle of Henry, from the first to the second battle.  In the context of the first battle, the sentiments of courage and honor, as well as others, are imbedded deep within him.  He is focused to move beyond any opposing elements, internal, in order to justify why he is there.  Henry wants to fight, be patriotic, and be brave for his family and friends.

Moving into the second battle, however, these items become a little too much for Henry to handle.  After finally going through the experience of war, his conflicting, internal issues become greater.  He lets the fear for his life, anxiety, worry, and so forth interfere.  Knowing of other’s fear, he finds recourse in other’s worries about fighting.  However, due to this, it only helps to justify those deep-rooted oppositions to fighting, at least on the level of being worried, anxious, and fearful.

In explaining this transition, it is important to note that it is a transition.  In other words, Henry was at a much different state in both battles.  Initially, he was strong in mind and spirit, and nothing was going to stop him.  However, after experiencing the negative items in battle, those concerns became overpowering, which was easily enough to uproot his pride, honor, and courage – at least temporarily.

Of course, this is very much why he didn’t run in the first place.  Once his doubts crept up on him, and seeing the brutality of battle, Henry began to rationalize his fear.  This can be seen with a quintessential statement, describing his change from confidence to fear: “Aren’t we too civilized to massacre ourselves?”  Of course, Henry was not thinking along these lines in the first instance.  His honor, courage, and other similar elements carried him into and out of battle – not his fear.

Overall, Henry’s change from being willing to fight to being unwilling to fight is an internal matter.  Indeed, the circumstances of the battles clearly helped change his mind, such as the brutality of war and seeing fellow soldiers’ fear.  However, each decision – from fighting to running away – was a direct result of what was going on internally.  Whether it was the courage and honor to fight in the first battle, or the fear and anxiety to run away in the second battle, Henry displays an important character view in these moments.  It is with these moments that the reader can truly unearth Henry’s attitudes, motives, and other dynamics in relationship to the war.  In other words, the reader can truly get a glimpse at the root of Henry’s charater.

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