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The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage

by Stephen Crane

Duty Theme

In The Red Badge of Courage, duty is very much a source of conflict. A young Civil War soldier struggles between his duty to himself – the need to stay safe and alive – and the duty to his cause – fighting in the war. The novel raises some interesting questions about the motivation for this soldier’s eventually commendable action; is he compelled by duty to act, merely out of obligation? Or does he really believe in this cause? More interestingly, does merely acting out of obligation undermine the young soldier’s valor?

Questions About Duty

  1. Why does Henry desert "the Tattered Soldier"?
  2. Why will Jim Conklin not allow anyone to help him when he is dying?
  3. How does Wilson’s reaction to soldierly duty differ from Henry’s? At the beginning of the novel? At the end?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Henry’s supposedly courageous actions are performed out of duty, not by choice.

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