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"The central thrust of the Red Badge of Courage is directed towards the puncturing of Henry Fleming's youthful range of illusions."

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Introduction

NUALA LAURO ENGLISH LITERATURE COURSEWORK MODULE BOOK - The Red Badge of Courage Question 6 "The central thrust of the Red Badge of Courage is directed towards the puncturing of Henry Fleming's youthful range of illusions." "Our inescapable conclusion concerning Red Badge of Courage is that Fleming is as deluded as the novel ends as he is when he first joins the Union Forces." Which of the above assessments of the development of Henry Fleming's character do you feel comes closest to the truth? In your answer you should Consider the arguments for and against accepting the question's assertions; Bring to bear knowledge of external critical opinion on the issue; Look at contextual aspects of the novel in relation to the topic under consideration. ANSWER I feel that both these arguments show strong opinions and though both show a critical view of Henry Fleming, they are opposing views. The first statement seems to come closest to the truth in that the narrator uses irony to mock and deride Henry yet at the same time he feels a certain affinity with him also. Statement two is a conclusion but not inescapable as Henry, although still deluded, is not as deluded as he was at the time he joined the Union Army. ...read more.

Middle

Paradoxically he mocks when Henry's thoughts turn to death and the hope that he "would be understood" in the afterlife. When Henry celebrates victory too soon and then runs away and when Henry leaves the tattered man to die despite staying with Jim whilst he died. After Henry returns to his own camp and Wilson tends his wound he gets very defensive if anyone mentions his absence or his wound, to the point of him thinking of blackmailing Wilson with the return of his letters and the narrator here shows how Henry is feeling superior yet benevolent, thinking himself the better for not being able to conjure up a scathing remark and how his self justification makes him pompous, devious and condescending. Henrys illusions are punctured again when after bravely fighting, he hears the veterans laughing at him, which only provokes him to further prove his own worth on the battlefield. His perception of the battle is now coloured by the "brotherhood of battle." The second claim, is wrong in that Henry is not as deluded as he was, he has fought his demons and come out on the other side, not perfect, but able to realise that he has done dreadful things and he will have to live with them. ...read more.

Conclusion

Rather like modern stories penned by writers for television and films. I believe that Crane has shown himself to be a psychological realist in writing this piece and that each reader takes from it what they want in relation to their own experiences and knowledge. Perhaps this was a biographical piece and Crane used Henry to show his own delusions. On discussion of this piece, both within a classroom setting and using discussion groups on computer, I have read and heard many differing views of Henry. These views vary depending on the critic's age. Many young people see him as egotistical, judgemental and self absorbed whilst mature students see him as just like most teenagers, too young to be able to see the big picture. Henry may be deluded but like most people once maturity sets in delusions become lessened as experience is gained. In conclusion I feel that statement 1 is true because the story develops many internal storylines one of which is the puncturing of Henry Fleming's youthful range of illusions, of which he has many. Statement 2 on the other hand seems true because Henry is deluded to a certain extent. This is one definite statement with no real detail behind it, the author of it seems to be assuming that Henry can not or will not change. Bibliography attached... ...read more.

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