The Red Badge of Courage follows the transformation of a young soldier fighting for the Union during the Civil War. The transformation here is a psychological one, from a scared, selfish, uncertain, and searching adolescent to a confident and strong young man – in the course of a mere three days. The transformation is driven by a number of trials, including battle, injury, fear, and a fair amount of good old-fashioned, isolated thinking time. The soldier, Henry, fights his battles in the mind before he can display the fruits of his transformation on the battlefield.
Henry’s supposed change in the novel is a superficial one.