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