When I first started reading this book I thought why does every one rave about how well it is written so I totally dove into reading it and found many forms of symbolism. The Symbolism in a Soldier The story The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane, was written to reflect the harsh Civil War realities. Cranes style of writing to portray these realities included the technique of symbolism. In this technique, symbols are hidden within certain objects throughout the story to help express the theme. There were many symbols in the story, but the soldiers symbolized a few of the important ones.
Henry, Jim Conklin, and Wilson all symbolized a specific aspect of mankind. In the beginning of the story, Henry is characterized as a shy and timid boy who has been nurtured his whole life by his mother. When Henry develops the motivation to free himself from his nurturing mother and finally become a man, he decides to fight in battle. As soon as Henry enters battle, this motivation to become a man softens to a mere whisper — Henry is afraid. He, too, threw down his gun and fled. There was no shame in his face. He ran like a rabbit.
Crane uses Henry’s fear to symbolize how a true-life person would feel. Not many people can relate to a super hero who can face all fears, but they can relate to a person who shows fear, without shame, in a frightening situation. Inspiringly, Henry finally does face his fear of the harsh realties of battle. In the end, Henry has overcome his fear and shows pride towards his becoming of a man. Another soldier who had a great impact of symbolism was Jim Conklin. To begin with, Jim Conklin’s name has symbolism — his initials are J. C. just like Jesus Christ.
Don’t ask me how I figured this one out. Just like Jesus Christ, Jim was the perfect man who taught all the other soldiers to find peace, good, and inspiration inside every one of them. None of the soldiers had any grudge against Jim and visa versa. Even the death of Jim symbolizes the death of Jesus Christ. His spare figure was erect; his bloody hands were quietly at his side. The position standing up with his bloody hands out symbolizes the crucification of Jesus Christ. Crane is symbolizing Jim Conklin to be the kind man who wants to help and remain in peace with others.
Wilson represents the Chinese philosophy Yin Yang. Yin Yang is a philosophy that deals with exact opposites, the main one being good and bad. Crane is using Wilson’s character to symbolize the good and bad in man. In the beginning of the story, Wilson is the big, mean guy, whom nobody likes. This tough guy act covers the true identity of who Wilson really is. Towards the end, we find out that Wilson is actually not a bad person, when he starts to care for Henry. When Henry gets injured, Wilson is the one to help him.
Many people today are like Wilson, where they are afraid to show their true identity. In today’s society, everyone wears a mask. In the story The Red Badge of Courage, Stephen Crane uses many techniques to make this, one of the greatest stories ever told to portray the harsh realities of battle during the Civil War. Many of the characters were symbolized to represent a particular aspect of mankind. This makes his writing style quiet dry at first glance but when you find the symbolism your opinion is changed to quiet the opposite.