The Red Badge of Courage
by Stephen Crane
Analysis: What’s Up With the Ending?
From his first battle, Henry oscillates between hating himself for running away and pretending he’s hot stuff for knowing enough to get (what?) while the getting was good. But it’s at the end that Henry is able to reconcile his past actions, accept them, and still feel like a man. Or, as Crane says: "He found that he could look back upon the brass and bombast of his earlier gospels and see them truly. He was gleeful when he discovered that he now despised them" (24.30). It’s as though Henry finally learns from his mistakes instead of pretending they never happened. And for all his pursuit of masculinity (see "Character Analysis" for more), we see that he finally achieves his goal. Quite simply, "He [is] a man" (24.31). Interestingly, Henry’s original vision of glory and manhood are replaced by a much more realistic and mature notion of what it means to be brave, loyal, and self-confident.