Private Fleming at Chancellorsville: The Red Badge of Courage and the Civil War

By Perry Lentz | Go to book overview
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Chapter 9
"He Was a Man"
"Manhood" in The Red Badge of Courage

Our central endeavor in this book has been to study The Red Badge of Courage in terms of the historical realities upon which it is based and in which it is set, to the end of seeing it as clearly, fully, and accurately as possible. The last chapter focused upon the events on the morning of the second day of the battle, both as they actually unfolded on the western face of the Union army's deployment in the Wilderness of Virginia on May 3, 1863, and as Crane depicted Private Henry Fleming and his fellow soldiers in the 304th New York experiencing them, showing how these soldiers judged themselves, how others judged them, and how a reader enabled by the historical record could perhaps achieve a sophisticated judgment upon these judgments. The Red Badge of Courage then brings us, finally, to two paragraphs showing Private Henry Fleming coming to a profound final judgment of himself.

Yet gradually he mustered force to put the sin at a distance. And at last
his eyes seemed to open to some new ways. He found that he could look
back upon the brass and bombast of his earlier gospels and see them truly.
He was gleeful when he discovered that he now despised them.

With this conviction came a store of assurance. He felt a quiet man-
hood, nonassertive but of sturdy and strong blood. He knew that he would

-237-

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