Red Badge of Courage, The - Study Guide
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Henry Fleming, a green recruit, has joined the Union army to satisfy his longing for glory and heroism. Henry's mind draws pictures "lurid with breathless deeds" on the battlefield. He imagines himself "a blue determined figure standing before a crimson and steel assault, getting calmly killed on a high place before the eyes of all." Camp life, he soon discovers, is far less exciting than the army of his imagination. During long periods of enforced idleness, Henry is plagued by adolescent doubts: Will he distinguish himself in battle? Will he run? He longs for the fighting to begin so that he might be tested, might "watch his legs" in the midst of battle to see whether they stand firm or flee. The harsh reality of the Civil War leaves him struggling against fear and self-doubt to find courage in the midst of chaos.