Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Red Badge of Courage Essay

The Red Badge of Courage Analysis Essay

Any war is a tragedy for people. It brings grief and devastation and ruins millions of lives. At all times the aspiration to depict the war and to draw people’s attention to its ruinous induced authors to write books and to shoot films devoted to this topic. The American Civil War that started in 1861 and lasted for four years took lives of more than half a million people and left nearly the same number of people wounded. Assuredly, this war also became a topic of many books and films. In this paper, I am going to consider and to compare the book "The Red Badge of Courage" written by an American writer and journalist Stephen Crane and the film “The Cold Mountain” (a screen version of the novel by Charles Frazier), released by Anthony Minghella. Both of them depict the events of the Civil War.


The book “The Red Badge of Courage” was published in 1895 and at first, American readers did not acknowledge the significance of the novel. It was more appreciated in England, which made American critics to reconsider their point of view. The book presented a new look upon the Civil War as earlier all depictions of this event were too idealistic and general. Crane changed the approach to the depiction of the Civil War. He focused on the feelings of a single soldier and showed how the war changed the psychological state of people.

“Cold Mountain” is a contemporary film that appeared in 2003 and won a number of rewards. The book that is the base of the film is also quite modern – it was published in 1997. However, despite the long period of time that passed since the War, the film fully describes all its horrors. Nevertheless, it covers a story absolutely different from the one of “The Red Badge of Courage”.

Both works touch upon the theme of masculinity as both of them have deserters as the main characters, which though have quite different reasons for such deed.

The main character of the book is Henry Fleming, who is a recruit that is afraid of the war and of battles, but most of all he is afraid of being coward. He views a war as a means to win glory and to become a hero. He is a young romantic man who does not fully realize the horror of the war. No wonder that when for the first time he fights in a battle, with no possibility to avoid it as he stands shoulder to shoulder with other soldiers, he is scared and he flees. Thus, he becomes a deserter.

However, he feels ashamed of his behavior, he joins a group of wounded soldiers but he cannot stay with them because their wounds are a reproach of his cowardice. He understands it perfectly well, yet he can’t return to the battlefield. He calls the wounds “the red badge of courage” and dreams to be wounded as well. While being a deserter, Henry’s outlook differs due to those events that happen to him. He sees wounded and dying people, in the forest he comes across a decaying body of a soldier, which horrifies him and shows the face of war one more time. Thereby we can watch how the main character matures, how his masculinity grows and his views are altered. At the end of the novel, Henry fights on a par with others and realizes that to win the glory is no more his aim. He just wants to be a member of the whole and wants to revenge for his killed fellows. Thus, he looses his selfishness and dreams about glory.

Comparing the book with the film “Cold Mountain” and Henry Flemming with W.P. Inman, we can see that they are absolutely different as well as their outlooks. Inman also flees from the army, but it is caused by his desire to be with his beloved, Ada, who faces difficulties and asks him to come back. Inman also performs a feat, but it is a feat for the sake of love and it has nothing to do with the war. Like Henry, Inman also does not fight, but his problem is not in fear or lack of courage. He is tired of battles, he wants to be with the woman he loves and he goes on foot back to Cold Mountain, the place where Ada lives. Is it a display of masculinity or of weakness?

It can de regarded from different points of view. On the one hand, Inman seems to be courageous.

The matter is that he does not display it in war, but in his relations with Ada. It is an exploit to become a deserter in order to help Ada to overcome great difficulties that she faces at home. It is necessary to note that Ada in her turn also performs a feat. She is a lady who has no idea of running a farm, however she has to do it to survive. Her father died and she has nobody to help her until uncouth Ruby Thewes, sent to her by kind neighbors, rescues her. Inman makes his long journey towards his home, knowing that he is going to be hunted by the guard that kills deserters.

Nevertheless, he keeps on and is eager to start a new life with Ada. They do not have a chance as Inman is killed by a “hunter”. On the other hand, we can say that like Henry, Inman also lacks courage to continue the war and he becomes a deserter.

Comparing these two characters and their behavior during the Civil war, we see that both of them present large social groups. Henry is the representative of those young men who do not know what a war is. Facing the reality, they get frightened and lack courage. Nevertheless, the war changes them.

They learn to be strong and to get rid of selfishness and dreams about glory. Inman represents those people who are simply tired of battles; they want to be at home with their families and to lead a calm and peaceful life.

To conclude, the topic of masculinity is covered in both works, which are similar in their aim. They show the ruinous effect of a war onto all people. People change their outlook, their way of life. Some of them mature, like Henry; others loose everything and sooner meet their death. In both cases, war overthrows people’s lives.
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