Study Guide

The Red Badge of Courage Man and the Natural World

By Stephen Crane

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

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.