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Red Badge of Courage Study Questions

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 2/17/2012

Review the material in the Red Badge of Courage and prepare for class discussion with these sample questions and answers

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    Use these Red Badge of Courage questions to prepare for class discussion or as practice quiz questions for the book.

    1. What is a red badge of courage?
      • Answer: Henry calls the soldier's wounds in chapter 9 a red badge of courage. He literally means physical wounds; A red badge of courage also represents emotional wounds. Take, for example, Henry's head wound, suffered not as a result of battle, but as a result of cowardice. Even after Henry's triumph in battle, he still looks on his cowardly behavior with a sense of shame and regret.
    2. Henry comes across a dead soldier in his wanderings. What does the dead soldier symbolize?
      • Answer: The dead soldier symbolizes nature's indifference toward the accomplishments of man. The soldier is unrecognizable, no war tokens exist, even the color of his uniform has faded.
    3. How does Henry's notion of courage evolve as the nove progresses?
      • Answer: Henry's concept of courage changes as the novel progresses. His initial concept of courage is derived from classical literature. He dreams of epic battles, damsels in distress, and gallantry. He relishes the fanfare that accompanies him on his trip to Washington and devours the praise of others. As Henry goes through the trials of battle, he realizes that heroism is not defined by what others think; it exists inside the individual. Although he enjoys the praise heaped on him by his colonel, he understands his true value as a soldier without needing the praise of others.
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    More Questions

    1. What is the major internal conflict Henry must resolve during the novel?
      • Answer: An internal struggle between self-preservation and courage occupies Henry throughout much of the novel. He rationalizes his cowardly behavior on the premise that he must save himself so he can be of use to the army later. Henry concludes eventually that in order to save himself he must become become part of the "blue demonstration." As part of the regiment, Henry ironically realizes his true potential as an individual soldier, preserving his dignity and honor at great risk to his physical well-being.
    2. How does Crane create a realistic war novel?
      • Answer: Crane's realistic depictions of soldiers in battle serve to create a realistic war novel. There are no gasping of last words, clever quips, or philosophizing of death. The reader sees men being shot and dying. This non-heroic portrayal of death is made clear as Jim Conklin fears dying and being run over by artillery wagons.
      • Answer: Crane examines the psychology of a soldier. Unlike romantic war accounts that portray heroes bravely going into battle, Henry has no idea whether or not he has what it takes to fight