Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "The Red Badge of Courage Study Guide." Course Hero. 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 18 Nov. 2018. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, February 27). The Red Badge of Courage Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 18, 2018, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "The Red Badge of Courage Study Guide." February 27, 2017. Accessed November 18, 2018.


Course Hero, "The Red Badge of Courage Study Guide," February 27, 2017, accessed November 18, 2018,

The Red Badge of Courage | Discussion Questions 11 - 20


In Chapter 8 of The Red Badge of Courage, in what ways are Henry Fleming's behaviors and thoughts examples of situational irony?

Henry Fleming's curiosity upon hearing battle sounds draws him back toward the front line he had just fled in terror. Henry himself realizes the situational irony: "He saw that it was an ironical thing for him to be running thus toward that which he had been at such pains to avoid." There is further situational irony when Henry admits to himself the skirmish he had fled was actually a minor one compared to the battle he is watching. This recognition shows a new self-awareness after his earlier rationalizations for deserting his regiment. Henry also now realizes the situational irony that before enlisting, he thought every fight would produce heroic actions that would be glorified forever. Instead, he now already knows they "would appear in printed reports under a meek and immaterial title." Yet, he sees that believing in war as glory is important or the military wouldn't be able to recruit any soldiers. Finally, there is situational irony in Henry's march with the wounded soldiers returning from the front lines, as though he belongs. Henry becomes uncomfortable only when the tattered soldier praises the courage of the soldiers who did not run but stayed and fought and then asks where Henry is wounded. Thus, this short chapter is heavy with situational irony, as reality contradicts Henry's self-deceptions.

In Chapter 9 of The Red Badge of Courage, how does Jim Conklin's death change Henry Fleming?

Henry is horrified to see his hometown friend, Jim Conklin, mortally wounded. It was Jim who had been excited about going to battle. He had run into the camp at the beginning of the novel with news that their regiment would finally move the next day. It was Jim who had provided comforting thoughts when Henry was worrying whether he would fight or run in his first battle. Jim stated he himself would be a team player—fighting if the entire regiment did or fleeing if the entire regiment fled. Henry looked up to Jim and admired his confidence. Henry is tormented when he sees Jim convulse and die, and he is forced to confront the ugliness of death. Henry shows growing maturity when he lets go of his self-centered behavior and chooses to watch over Jim, making sure Jim will not be run over by an advancing unit. Henry also stays with Jim until Jim dies. When Henry sees Jim's wound to his side, he doesn't see a red badge of courage but a wound looking like "it had been chewed by wolves"; he sees Confederate soldiers as animals, not humans.

In Chapter 10 of The Red Badge of Courage, how do Henry Fleming's behaviors and emotions contrast with his actions in Chapter 9?

In Chapters 9 and 10 of The Red Badge of Courage, Henry Fleming moves from unselfish caring of his friend Jim Conklin in Chapter 9 to becoming self-absorbed again in Chapter 10, when he sees the tattered soldier is about to die as well. Henry worries, "'Oh, Lord!' He wondered if he was to be the tortured witness of another grim encounter." Instead of taking care of the tattered soldier, Henry abandons him in a field. His callous selfishness is sparked when the tattered soldier has asked where Henry is wounded. Convinced it is he who is a victim, Henry broods with self-pity that he wishes he were dead, so he could "keep his crime concealed in his bosom." Thus, Henry is still agonizing over his lack of courage in his second battle. However, his agony now is more about whether other soldiers will realize he fled and the fact that he doesn't have a "red badge of courage" to prove his bravery. His growing maturity in Chapter 9 reverses itself in Chapter 10. This behavior is realistic because people often strive to meet their own ideals, rising to the occasion sometimes, but falling short other times; the path to self-acceptance, maturity, and courage is not always a straight line.

In The Red Badge of Courage, what is the significance of what Henry sees in the faces of the corpses in Chapters 3, 5, 7, and 9?

As the soldiers pass a corpse in Chapter 3, Henry stares into its eyes, realizing the corpse cannot answer the Question about the real meaning of war since a corpse cannot share a message with the living. In Chapter 5 Henry sees the body of a captain stretched out as if resting, but "upon his face there was an astonished and sorrowful look as if he thought some friend had done him an ill turn." In Chapter 7 when Henry enters the chapel-like copse, he comes face to face with a dead soldier overcome by voracious ants. Henry screams as he momentarily freezes and stares into its eyes. Fearing the corpse might grab or call after him, a terrified Henry flees yet again. When Jim dies in Chapter 9, Henry stares at this friend's greyed face and is shocked when Jim's coat falls open to expose Jim's awful wound. Henry explodes with anger and shakes his fist at the battlefield. The tattered soldier tells Henry, "There ain't no use in ... tryin' t' ask him anything." These words seem to signify that whatever answers these corpses might have had, it doesn't matter—they are all dead.

In Chapter 11 of The Red Badge of Courage, how does Crane use color metaphors to describe Henry Fleming's mental state?

In Chapter 11 Henry Fleming watches retreating and advancing Union troops from the safety of a small hill while he has an internal psychological battle raging in him. Henry's emotions swing from elation to gloominess. He wants to mature. He wants to be one of the infantry pushing forward to the battle, envisioning himself leading the charge. He pictures a glorious death in battle. Then Henry thinks up reasons not to rejoin the Union troops. His greatest worry is not death, but having to face his fellow soldiers' criticism for his lack of courage when he fled the battlefield. Crane uses color in his descriptions to portray the emotional impact of Henry's feelings. Henry feels "the black weight" of his sorrow. Black is a metaphor for fear. He is a "desperate figure." In contrast Henry's fantasy of the glory of war features bright red as he imagines he stands before "a crimson and steel assault" and soars "on the red wings of war." Red is a metaphor for war. As Henry fluctuates between courage and retreat, he must reconsider his understanding of what a true red badge of courage means.

In The Red Badge of Courage, how does Crane compare and contrast the characters of Wilson and Henry Fleming?

Wilson is introduced as "the loud soldier," and Henry as the "youth." Both begin the novel as boys who show their immaturity through their lack of wartime knowledge and experience. Both go through dramatic changes because of personal conflicts. However, each youth experiences change in different ways. Wilson begins as a boastful, argumentative, and outgoing soldier. Yet, Wilson enters his first battle so convinced of his own imminent death that he confides his fears to Henry. Henry is quieter, anxious, and self-doubting. He doesn't fear death so much as becoming a coward under fire. For Wilson battle serves to produce a mature man. As Henry notices, "The youth took note of a remarkable change in his comrade ... He was no more a loud young soldier. There was about him now a fine reliance. He showed a quiet belief in his purposes and his abilities." In contrast Henry is still "the youth," consumed by guilt, self-pity, and anger as he still pretends with Wilson to have earned his red badge of courage through battle. Having fled battle and lied about his wound, Henry confronts his demons by returning to the war where he takes up arms and flag in pursuit of redemption. Eventually, both Wilson and Henry fight courageously and fiercely. But while there is no doubt Wilson has grown up, the reader cannot be quite as certain about Henry.

In what ways does Crane use the natural phenomena of the sun to highlight selected events and scenes in The Red Badge of Courage?

Crane's use of the sun is especially striking in Chapter 2 in a morning with purple uniforms, red eyes, and the sun, which "slowly rises yellow in the east." In Chapter 6 the images are stark and vivid with "earthlike yellow in the sunrays," the flag "suntouched" as the sun and clouds form a backdrop for battle. When Henry rests after the battle in Chapter 5, the beauty and brightness in the sun implies it is nature that really controls man's behavior. In Chapter 9 Henry envies the wounded soldiers when he wishes for his own "red badge of courage." But the badge of courage also reflects the tragedy and drudgery of a soldier's life which Crane contrasts with an image of a red sun "pasted in the sky like a fierce wafer." Of course the sun will shine regardless. When he writes of the "red sun setting" after Jim Conklin's death, Crane exemplifies nature's indifference to human existence. After the battle in Chapter 17, the "sun shines gaily." And when he finally distances himself from his guilt in the end, Henry feels peace and "a quiet manhood" as over the river, a symbolic ray of sun breaks through the clouds.

In The Red Badge of Courage, why is Henry Fleming so conflicted between self-preservation and a soldier's sense of duty?

Henry Fleming's central conflict is his survival instinct versus a soldier's duties to honor, selfless service, and personal courage. Henry fled a skirmish to protect himself; self-preservation is part of human nature. Henry turns to nature to validate his impulse, noting that animals scurry to safety when they perceive a threat. He rationalizes that his running from battle is simply following the laws of nature and that the natural universe would not judge him harshly. However, from boyhood Henry has read classical tales of courage and heroism in battle, which also are now ingrained in him. Further, he has been trained as a soldier to act beyond self-interest for the good of his battalion, his brigade, his army, and his country. Thus, Henry has two powerful motivations that clash, and he chronically wavers between seeking a moral vindication for his actions and wanting to fight alongside his fellow soldiers. He wants to earn his red badge of courage, but gains some confidence even in having a wound inflicted by a fleeing Union soldier.

In what ways is Crane's depiction of war realistic in The Red Badge of Courage?

Crane presents ordinary soldiers and officers factually and without judgment rather than as perfect warriors. He describes confusion, men charging, retreating, and making mistakes. He shows corpses, horrible wounds, convulsive dying, bloodied battlefields, and nonheroic death mixed with dirt, ants, fear, sores, and weariness. Crane uses vivid colors and sensory, real-life details to depict the experience of war with its barrage of sounds, sights, and smells. For example in his first skirmish Henry becomes "aware of the foul atmosphere in which he had been struggling. He was grimy and dripping like a laborer in a foundry. He grasped his canteen and took a long swallow of the warmed water." No one gives inspiring speeches. No one strikes "heroic poses." No one who dies utters heroic last words or insights about the meaning of life. Amazed at seeing the retreat of Union soldiers, Henry can stammer only, "Why—why—what—what 's th' matter?" In addition to the action Henry Fleming's inner psychology is explored with realism as Henry changes from self-centered to courageous, back to self-absorption, and back to bravery, following the uneven emotional trajectory typical of real people.

In Chapter 13 of The Red Badge of Courage, how do Henry Fleming's actions when he rejoins his regimen reflect his inner conflict?

When the cheerful soldier leads Henry Fleming back to his regiment's camp, Henry is still concerned his fellow soldiers will realize he ran from battle and ridicule him. So he creates a story about how he became separated from his brigade, lies about his "red badge of courage" by being shot in the head, and accepts Wilson's and Simpson's kindness, comfort, and care. However, despite the smoothness of his lies, Henry becomes uncomfortable later when his friend Wilson remarks, "Yer a good un, Henry. Most 'a men would 'a been in th' hospital long ago." Henry doesn't reply and fumbles with the buttons of his jacket, a sign he feels shame about his running away and then lying about his wound. Also, though he is exhausted, Henry suddenly starts to return Wilson's blanket to him, showing the return of his bond with his regiment.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about The Red Badge of Courage? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!