From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage


by Stephen Crane

The Red Badge of Courage Theme of Man and the Natural World

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.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Why does it matter that all of nature seems "indifferent" to the plight of the soldiers?
  2. How does Henry view nature – as something kind? Indifferent? Malevolent?
  3. How are men different from animals in this novel?

Chew on This

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

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.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...