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The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage

by Stephen Crane

Isolation Theme

In this novel, isolation has to do with the psychological distance between a young, uncertain soldier in the Civil War and the rest of his regiment. Because he doubts his abilities to fight and feels that the other men lack this fear, the young soldier deems himself "a mental outcast" and is all the more tormented by his hesitance. Isolation is also constructive, though – the young soldier spends much of the novel in literal isolation, sorting out his concerns through contemplation and careful consideration. Only when he is alone is he allowed the safety and peace of mind to do so.

Questions About Isolation

  1. Which is worse for Henry – the self-scrutiny he struggles with while alone, or the (perceived) judgment from others he suffers when with his comrades?
  2. Why is Henry so worried about being different from others, a "mental outcast," as he says?
  3. Does Henry break from his isolation at the end of the novel, or retreat further into mental solitude?

Chew on This

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

The most important steps in Henry’s transformation are mental changes he undergoes while in solitude, not the actions he takes in battle.

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