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Describe The Elements Of Death Essay

621 words - 3 pages

Describe the elements of war and death in Stephen Crane’s The Red
Badge of Courage. This book is divided into two parts. In the first part the main
characters, Henry Flemings. illusions disappear when confronted by the reality of
battle(WAH 642). During the first battle he sees vague figures before him, but
they are driven away. In the next battle he is so frightened that he runs away
becoming one of the first heroes in literature to actually desert his fellow soldiers
in the field.
While Henry is separated from his fellow soldiers, he
wanders through the forest. There he experiences the kind of
illusions that predominate in all of the writings of Crane (WAH
642). First he tells himself that nature does not blame him for
running. Next he finds himself in a part of the woods that he
believes is religious. The insects are praying and the forest
takes the ...view middle of the document...

After Conklin dies, the
tattered man probes deeply into Henry’s conscience by repeatedly
asking “where ya hit”(Bowers 132). Henry deserts the tattered
When Henry stops another soldier he asks him the novels most
important question which is “why” The soldier hits henry on the
head for starting trouble. Ironically this wound becomes Henry’s
“Red Badge of Courage”. Henry is then lead back to his regiment
by a “cheery soldier” who helps wandering soldiers. This leads
Henry into the second half of the book. Henry’s wanderings are
over. Not until the end of the book does he ask questions. Most
of the repudiations are complete: heroes do not always act like
heroes; no one understands the purpose of life or death; nature
may be malevolent, probably no different, but is certainly not
the benevolent pantheist realm of the transcentalists, and God,
is simply nowhere to be found(Weatherford 32).
In the second part of the novel Henry beco0mes a “war
devil”, the hero that he wanted to be originally when another
battle is over, all Henry has accomplished is negated. Many
critics found the last chapter confused and muttled, Henry’s
feelings range from remorse to the “sin” which is not responsible
to pride as a great hero. Finally he feels “the world was a world
for him” and he looks forward to a soft and eternal peace”
(bowers 173). The end of the book is like that of many of Cranes
conclusions completely ironic. No one lives” eternally
peacefully” the world is not a world for Henry. As John Berryman
says, “Cranes sole illusion was the heroic one, and not even that
escaped his irony”
During the course of his experiences Henry learns at first
hand of the indifference of the universe, the chaos of the world,
the illusory nature of religion and patriotism and heroism, but
he learns these lessons in the heat of the moment, when
recognition is virtually forced on him(reports of war 146). Henry
becomes a representative of mankind.
The individual memory becomes a metaphor for collective memory,
history. Everythings a lie. Not even heroism can last.

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