The Red Badge of Courage depicts the evolution of the childish, Henry Fleming, into a grown hero. Like Simba in The Lion King, Henry must conquer a psychological obstacle. Simba had to retrieve his kingdom from his corrupt uncle who convinced him that Simba was responsible for his father's death and forced Simba to abandon the Pride Lands. Simba ran from the shame and repentance of his self-made situation. Similarly, Henry's fate was self-made. Henry, too, had to confront cowardliness: would he run? Henry Fleming began his journey into adulthood, as a youthful coward, who, through many trials, matured into a hero.
Henry's youthful cowardliness began when "he burned Ã¢ÂÂ¦ to enlist"(Babusci 577). His motive was an attempt to achieve adulthood and heroism. From birth, Henry was subject to the guidance of his mother; however, her guidance was more dictation than recommendation. For instance, when he initially informed her of his desire to enlist, she heartlessly discouraged him, urging him not to be a fool.
Once Henry departed his diminutive hometown, he arrived in Washington with great expectations. Henry believed enlisting instantaneously classified him as a hero. More than anything, Henry relied on his imagination to define war and its glorious battles, as Greek epics did. He often compared the enemy to beasts and dragons; he felt if he could conquer those savages of the South, he too could be a hero.
The hero within Henry began as a desperate attempt for the approval of his comrades. Throughout the novel, Henry illustrates this desire, determining to save himself from mockery. "Henry does not want his fellows to regard him scornfully"(Gibson 46). Trying to obtain some sense of relief, he asked the others if they would run. Eventually, Henry ran "like a proverbial chicken"(Babusci 599). Over time, Henry tormented himself with the fear of rejection, so he exaggerated the blow to his head by a rifle to a gunshot wound as a disguise to fleeing. Therefore, Henry sensed the immense burden of resentment rise from his shoulders because he had fooled the entire regiment. However, Henry soon felt his conscience surfacing and his guilt burdening him. Henry must prove himself a hero; he must repent his sins of lying, abandoning and fleeing. During the last encounter, Henry conquered the flag bearer position, which is in the most perilous position of the battle; nevertheless, Henry believed he must lead the regiment. Moreover, when Henry turned back pursuing the approval of the regiment's remainder, he found they were all dead or wounded. Henry now realizes his previous fear as ridiculous; it was Henry's view of reality.
Henry's view of reality was primarily emotional. Henry feels, yet he does not think. To cite an instance, Henry deemed himself as a hero the moment he reached Washington, "Ã¢ÂÂ¦his spirit had soaredÃ¢ÂÂ¦until the youth believed that he must be a hero"(Babusci 580). In Washington, Henry was "fed and caressed" with an abundance of delicious delights. There were all sorts of pickles and cheeses, breads and cold meats, the coffee and the elegant enchanting smile upon each girl's face he witnessed. Henry felt as bold as a hero did, for this fete was anything but banal. However, Henry never understood the definition of a hero, not the deeds, nor the obstacles he must defeat. He felt the praise of being a soldier.
Initially the young soldier, Henry Fleming, imagined himself as a victim through only his imagination. Universally, Henry intimidated himself with "a little panic-fear"(Babusci 581); he began to ponder the possibilities of running. Running caused Henry to become even more fearful; he was more afraid of death coming from behind him than from in front (Babusci 599). Henry's imagination confined him to remain in the regiment's rear as part of the "blue demonstration." Henry alluded the enemy as advancing "dragons" and slow crawling "serpents," another aspect of his victimizing imagination. Although Henry must overpower his imagination that is, perhaps, his greatest obstacle, Henry captures the treacherous effects of war. Before he enlisted, Henry had no suspicions that he might be fearful. As he imagined it, war carried no threats to life or other significant dangers"(Gibson 21); he believed war encompassed only "heavy crowns and high castles"(Babusci 577).
War imposed a tremendous amount of fear into the bloodstream of Henry. In the opening of the novel after Henry received a great deal of information concerning the upcoming attack, Henry was afraid. Henry was afraid of death, of finally facing his torment, and finally concluding whether or not he would run. Henry departed the small group of quarreling soldiers, returning to his "dwelling" to hide. Henry reacted cowardly. In the end, Henry feels the need to prove himself. Henry begins to overcome his fear of the battlefield and of peer rejection via positioning himself as the flag bearer, which is in the most dangerous situation of the entire regiment. Henry is in the front line, unarmed and in complete view; he is a faultless target (Gibson 32). With the "red rage" rushing through his body, Henry finally excelled as the flag bearer; it was as if he temporarily put aside his fears to prove to himself that he was not a coward.
Amid the mounds of men, Henry discovered himself within one of the treacherous effects of war. Surrounding him were the crowds of bloody, lifeless bodies which appeared to be unaware of the events encircling them. These men looked ever so peaceful, it was as if they had nothing more to worry and "nothing but rest"(Babusci 591). The death of these men got Henry to think of the luxury they have made for themselves. The deceased have to worry neither about the forever asking questions of fleeing the regiment nor of the inquiries of when the bullet will finally defeat them. They are not worried about the families and the life they left at home. The deceased "have no worries" because there is nothing continuing for them to have worries about.
Amidst these men, Henry found a familiar friend from the regiment, Jim Conklin. Jim seemed anything but healthy. Within a fragment of conversation, Jim became slightly deranged; he perpetually stuttered and could not understand the origin of his wounds. "'An', b'jiminey, I got shotÃ¢ÂÂ¦' he reiterated this fact in a bewildered way as if he did not know how it came about"(Babusci 611). To Henry, the tall soldier symbolized a father, the father whom he had lost. Henry never experienced the bond a son has with his father. Jim Conklin seemed to fill this gap. Jim had the ability for a boy to admire; Jim "wore an expression of awe and admiration"(Babusci 609). In the beginning of Henry's enlistment, Jim shielded Henry and assisted him throughout the war. However, "the tables have turned," now Henry was Jim's guardian: Henry regretfully was a bystander of Jim's final moments. Jim emphasized his fear that the artillery would trample him. In such a way that Henry had taken him under his wing, Jim made his companion promise that, if Jim died in the middle of the thoroughfare, Henry would hale him to the edge of the road. After Jim divulged his dread, the anxiety resurfaced. Finally, Jim advanced into his death. Henry cared for Jim, to watch him die was traumatic; it was like watching a part of he die. Jim had been remarkably close to Henry. Jim did not merely entitle another dead soldier; he represented an individual.
"In war, there are men, not man: there are no individuals: they are all united"(Babusci 578). This experience had supplied Henry with loyalty and anguish and with honor and despair. Nevertheless, Henry was purely a child and repeatedly referred to as "the youth"; also, Henry could not embrace the decease of someone as close as Jim became. At length, Henry was without a father, and all he had remaining in the world was his mother and his conscience. Once, Henry met a man who treated him like a son. To Henry, this man was an idol, "I was allus a good friend t' yehÃ¢ÂÂ¦I've allus been a pretty good feller"(Babusci 611). Then this man also left him alone to become a man.
The Red Badge of Courage encompassed Henry Fleming's quests for maturity, heroism, and individuality. Initially, Henry was a naive boy whose imagination guided him through many obstacles. Henry was "a fish out of water"; he was a juvenile in the unfamiliar adult world. Henry enlisted not knowing anyone in his regiment. It was a hard task to overcome the isolation and loneliness. Once Henry began to "fit in" his next task was to strive for approval. Henry was afraid of running during battle because he was afraid of becoming an outcast because of his cowardliness. The youth eventually realized he must be true to himself and judge situations with his conscience and not his imagination; he realized reality. The reality was the war and the battles. It was the events happening without him, the remainder of the regiment. In the end, Henry responsibly became aware of himself and his life. He became aware that he must be in charge of his own actions and direct the outcome of his life. For if he followed the rest of the regiment, Henry would probably be lying on the ground dead or wounded like the rest of his comrades. Henry's mother told him to "take good care of"(Babusci 578) himself. As another guru, Jim Conklin was a major influence in his victory of himself. Jim was a man in control of his own life; he did not need to follow the crowd. Nevertheless, Jim was also influenced by the others like when Henry asked Jim if he would ever run Jim replied, "if a whole lot of the boys started to run, why, I s'pose I'd start and run"(Babusci 582). Things eventually got "too hot for Jim Conklin" (Babusci 582). Henry realized he must follow the path his idol Jim Conklin has created. Henry realized that he must go onto the battlefield and fight; it was for himself. Jim's death helped him realize that he cannot hide his "crime." The "crime" Henry cannot hide is the offense of deserting his regiment.
Henry Fleming overcame a great obstacle to acquire his manhood. In The Lion King, Simba forced himself to believe he was a hero because the "worst critic in life is yourself." Simba had to return to his original home and surpass the feat that was obstructing him from his destiny. Simba's destiny was to become the king of the Pride Lands, and he required barely a small inspiration to activate his rebirth. Henry Fleming also needed the corresponding type of inspiration to reestablish his pride and self-respect. As with Simba, Henry experienced a displeasing situation that altered his view of himself. Henry hid from his true self, He believed that he could not fix his mistake nor could he change. However, when Henry saw the "spectral soldier" slowly deteriorating he began to change his entire outlook. It made him understand reality, understand devotion, and understand responsibility. Henry ventured away from his childhood and entered manhood through a test that many would have easily given up.