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The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage


by Stephen Crane

Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type : The Quest

The Call

Enlisting in the military

Henry feels the call of glory and honor and seeks to prove his courage by becoming a war hero.

The Journey

That first battle (a.k.a. the 500-meter dash); "the Tattered Soldier"; Jim’s death

In his first attempt to prove himself a real soldier, Henry fails his comrades and himself. The dead corpse, Jim’s death, and "the Tattered Soldier" constitute a variety of "obstacles," which, as Booker says, stand in Henry’s way to complete his quest for valor.

Arrival and Frustration

Henry is seen as a war hero because of his head injury

Henry is "in sight of his goal" in the sense that his peers view him as a hero. However, as we all know, the injury isn’t from battle and so is a false badge of courage. Henry still has a ways to go before he proves his courage to himself as well as those around him.

The Final Ordeals

Henry fights like a madman and bears the Union flag to victory

Here Henry becomes the symbolic force driving his fellow soldiers to fight like real men. He must face his own fear and survival instinct to do so.

The Goal

Henry captures the Rebel flag, proves his valor, and reflects on and accepts his earlier mistakes.

Henry has become the man he always wanted to be. His actions in battle are praised by others, but are also matched by Henry’s own newfound sense of self-worth. Interestingly, his original vision of glory and manhood have been replaced by a much more realistic and mature notion of what it means to be brave, loyal, and self-confident.

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