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The Red Badge of Courage

The Red Badge of Courage

by Stephen Crane

Transformation Theme

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.

Questions About Transformation

  1. Which event changes Henry more than any other?
  2. What truly motivates Henry to rush at the enemy when they are hiding behind the fence?
  3. What are the key events in the course of Henry’s transformation?
  4. Is Henry’s transformation a positive or negative one? Is he better off at the start or the end of the novel?

Chew on This

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

Henry’s supposed change in the novel is a superficial one.

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