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Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors
used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.
In writing The Red Badge of Courage, Crane
tried to render battle, and the lives of common soldiers, as authentically
as possible. Accordingly, a realistic, almost journalistic style
of writing dominates the narrative, leaving little room for the
development of an overt, more literary system of symbols. However,
there are a few noteworthy symbols in the novel. One of these is
the dead soldier, who represents the insignificance of mortal concerns.
Henry encounters the corpse, decaying and covered by ants, at a
crucial moment: he has just reassured himself that he was right
to flee battle and that the welfare of the army depends upon soldiers being
wise enough to preserve themselves. Then the dead soldier, whose
anonymity strips him of any public recognition of courage and glory
(regardless of whether or not he deserved them), forces Henry to
begin to question himself and the values by which he measures his
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Red Badge of Courage!