As a young Civil War soldier struggles internally with his desire to prove himself courageous and his fear of death or injury, one of his big concerns is the way he appears to those around him – both his peers and his superiors. The Red Badge of Courage reminds us that the opinion of others can drive us to actions above and beyond those which we could ever achieve on our own. On the other (more negative) hand, fear of a sullied reputation is a main source of angst for this young soldier, causing considerable internal turmoil throughout the text.
Questions About Respect and Reputation
What does Henry’s mother’s advice have to do with the rest of the novel? Why is it even included?
What effect do the officers’ words and actions have on the enlisted men?
Is Henry more concerned for his own safety, or for his own reputation? Does the answer to this question change over the course of the novel?
Chew on This
Ironically, Henry can only earn the respect of his comrades by losing his sense of self.