The Red Badge of Courage argues that man is alone in a vast and indifferent universe. For the main character, a young Civil War soldier, this is at first a horrifying thought. It is also, however, an ultimately freeing thought, giving him a sense of agency and personal responsibility to a greater degree than he possessed before. The novel also considers questions of what is natural and what is not, such as warfare, fleeing from battle, courage, and self-sacrifice.
In The Red Badge of Courage, Crane paints a contradictory portrait of nature as both beautiful and dangerous. This mimics Henry’s view of battle as both glorious and deadly.