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Themes

The Red Badge of Courage revolves around an adolescent male seeking to prove his masculinity by showing his courage on a battlefield of the Civil War. Interestingly, his definition of manhood changes as the novel progresses, from a superficial vision of tough, unthinking, bold men of action to an ideal of self-confidence, composure, and acceptance. The young soldier learns quickly that, far form his initial impression, the uniform does not make the man. Rather, he and his fellow soldiers give meaning to the uniforms they don through their collective action.

Questions About Men and Masculinity

  1. Are Henry’s notions of manhood modern ones? If not, what makes them seem archaic to you?
  2. Who is the most "manly" character in the novel? Who gets to define masculinity in Red Badge – Henry? Stephen Crane?
  3. What are Henry’s mother’s notions of "manhood?"

Chew on This

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

The Red Badge of Courage argues that violence is an integral part of masculinity.

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