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Themes of The Red Badge of Courage Stephen Crane before dying of tuberculosis at age 29 published several essays novels and even a volume of poetry He also worked as a newspaper journalist for several different publications including for William Randolph Hearst Crane published his most famous novel about the Civil War The Red Badge of Courage in 1985 At the time Crane had had no true war experience but this changed in the later stages of his life The book traces the effects of war on a Union soldier Henry Fleming from his dreams of soldiering to his actual enlistment and through several battles of the Civil War Stephen Crane develops four major themes in The Red Badge of Courage and these themes exist in his personal experiences The central theme of the book is courage When the book opens Henry Fleming thinks storybook heroes the knights and Greek warriors he read about in school display courage Despite his mothers warning that he cant fight the whole war alone Henry thinks he will That is what courage means to him Once he joins the army and sees how horrible war is he becomes terribly frightened He worries that he will be a coward The red badge of courage referred to in the title is a wound It is ironic of course a retreating Union soldier wound Henry rather than a Confederate one wounding him His wound is really a badge of shame not of courage But he and the other soldiers treat it as if it is a wound honestly received and perhaps in a way it was Henrys experiences during this first flight from battle eventually teach him a great deal about life and death When Henry shows real courage in the second days fighting he is not wounded A number of other characters in the novel show various types of courage Hasbrouck the young lieutenant is always brave always urging his
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