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Henry Fleming: Brave Hero Or Mere Man?

909 words - 4 pages

What is the definition of hero? Is it a person who performs a courageous act? Some may say that this is so, but what if the act was done out of fear? What if it was done because of an instinct? Would one still be considered a hero? These are a few of many questions that we can apply to the novel, Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. Henry Fleming, the main character in the novel, undergoes some drastic mental and emotional changes throughout the book. He overcomes fears, and seems to be courageous, but has Henry really become a Hero? Before Henry enlisted into the Army, he thought that war was full of glory and glamour and was too naïve to even think about the gruesome ...view middle of the document...

Later, when Henry finally found his regiment again, he was hit in the head by the butt of a rifle and then told people he had been shot in the head. At this point in the story, Henry began to gain pride. Then he felt good about himself when his friend, Wilson, showed sign of weakness with the letters. In the following chapters, Henry seems to be more mature. Henry is suddenly brave in battle. One might ask, where did that bravery come from? Previously, he had overheard some higher ranking officer call his regiment a bunch of "mule drivers" and Henry wanted to prove him wrong. One can say this sparked this sudden urge to fight, but also Crane describes it as a primal instinct. Everyone is an animal, but Humans are the most developed. At some point, Crane thinks even humans will revert back to their animalistic mindset. Henry might have finally overcome his fear of dying and turned into an "animal" as Crane would say. After the battle had ended Crane wrote that they had become humans again which hints about his belief of the animal theory. Henry then feels quite good about being revered for shooting incessantly at a retreating army. At the end of the novel, where his supposed change into a hero occurs, he thinks only of himself. He is still selfish. He does not seek to seek out the tattered man that helped him or confess his...

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