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Published: 06-11-2019

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The Use of Intense Imagery in Red Badge of Courage, a Novel by Stephen Crane

Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage is known for its vivid imagery and gruesome depictions of the Civil War from the point of view of a young soldier. Crane often utilizes realism and impressionism to make these photos come alive to the reader. By describing issues in intense detail although making use of words and symbols that inflict emotion into the reader, Crane manages to generate a scene that encompasses not only what the war looked like, but also what it felt like. This intense imagery is why Crane has been accredited for writing the most realistic – yet nonetheless artistic and symbolic – representation of war (Norton 181).

In Chapter XXIV, Crane describes the narrator’s internal development and progression of character as it parallels his literal movement away from the battlefield, saying that “as he trudged…his soul changed. He came from hot plowshares to prospects of clover tranquility… Scars faded as flowers” (Crane 104). He utilizes the conjugation of the terms hot plowshares and clover tranquility, and scars and flowers to show the reader how significantly Henry has changed, and that this modify was extremely good. It inflicts a prideful emotion into the reader, who has followed Henry’s story from the begin and has knowledgeable his insecurity and embarrassment alongside him, and is hence proud of the man that Henry has grow to be. This symbolic and emotional description is a prime instance of impressionism and how impressionism can aid the reader better understand a story. The connections created inside the text to Henry’s journey as a individual help the reader see the big picture and therefore the general adjust that has occurred inside Henry’s character. Impressionism accomplishes this so efficiently though its use of emotion, as the reader better understands Henry since of his/her emotional attachment to him that has developed more than the course of the novel.

Crane usually uses sturdy sensory photos to develop an even far more realistic depiction of war for the reader. An instance in which he does this is in Chapter XIV, when he writes, “a distant bugle sang faintly. Related sounds, varying in strength, came from near and far over the forest. The bugles known as to each other like brazen gamecocks. The close to thunder of the regimental drums rolled” (Crane 64). This strong description of the sounds offers the reader the sense that they themselves are hearing the same factor as the narrator, hence generating an even a lot more vivid description of the battle scene. Crane overloads the reader with sensory images, using intense descriptions of each and every sense all inside a paragraph or two, which simulates the sensory overload of a particular person experiencing war – so a lot is happening at when that it is tough to take in. The hectic image that Crane creates also assists the reader comprehend why so numerous soldiers are compelled to run it’d be challenging for one to face almost everything that is taking place inside the scenes that he describes. The intense particulars that he provides every single description makes the scene even much more vivid and overwhelming for the reader.

Impressionism and realism are utilised regularly throughout the novel and are even employed to describe the identical event or object to make it all the far more graphic. Crane does this in Chapter XI when describing Henry’s wish for death, describing his imagined self as “a blue desperate figure top lurid charges with one knee forward and a broken blade high – a blue, determined figure standing prior to a crimson and steel assault, acquiring calmly killed on a higher place before the eyes of all” (Crane 48). Utilizing the synesthesia of a blue figure and a crimson assault creates an image of great versus evil, as that is the general association of these respective colors. Inclusion of the phrase “on a high spot just before the eyes of all” show that Henry’s death wish is rooted in pride. Crane’s use of realistic, descriptive language in the initial component of this quote makes it possible for the reader to think about Henry’s image of himself just as he does. Crane also does this in Chapter III when describing 1 of the fallen soldiers,

“Once the line encountered the physique of a dead soldier. He lay upon his back staring at the sky. He was dressed in an awkward suit of yellowish brown. The youth could see that the soles of his shoes had been worn to the thinness of writing paper, and from a fantastic rent in one particular the dead foot projected piteously. And it was as if fate had betrayed the soldier. In death it exposed to his enemies the poverty which in life he had perhaps concealed from his friends” (Crane 18).

The in-depth realistic description of the soldier’s dead physique creates a detailed image for the reader, even though the intense focus on the soles of the soldier’s footwear is each an example of naturalism and impressionism in its intense, but emotion-evoking description.

Crane’s heavy use of impressionism and realism are what let his descriptions of war to be so precise. His use of a narrator “whose visual representations are less descriptive and emblematic than theatrical” (Norton 286) creates an emotional atmosphere for his audience, although nevertheless “[extending] realism down to the society of soldiers…their distinction as tall soldier, loud soldier, and youth takes precedence over their person names, their language designates their identity as soldiers rather than individuals” (Norton 316). This lack of individualism for the characters also permits for the reader to really feel more connected and involved in the story, as if he as well is a youth at war. His use of impressionism to describe the narrator’s private development throughout the story is pretty equivalent to Equiano’s narrative in his autobiography, as both are narrated in such a way that the reader develops an emotional connection to the narrator by way of their sympathy and shared experiences. Both Equiano and Henry encounter a phase of childlike wonder/innocence that later evolves into a far more educated sophistication. Equiano experiences this via his adjustment to American culture and society, even though Henry experiences this via his adjustment to life in the war.
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