Color symbolism in The Red Badge of Courage

Essay by Tinokapino May 2005

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Though it is obvious that Steven Crane's novel entitled The Red Badge of Courage is centered on one specific symbolic focal point, it is quite easy for the reader to look deeper into the title in search of another meaningful symbol. After much contemplation I realized that Crane uses color imagery as a symbol for many features within the story. Many specific colors were present more than once and often used for a certain representation of a character or characteristic. The particular noticeable colors were green, which is used to represent youth, red is a symbol of Henry Fleming's mental visions of battle, and gray is used as a symbol for death and defeat. The colors are subtle representations of emotion, character, and one's perception of events.

Though there isn't much discussion with reference to the color green in this novel, when it is talked about in the narration it always deals with adolescence or childish behavior.

"As the landscape changed from brown to green, the army awakened, and began to tremble with eagerness at the noise of rumors" (Crane 368). Crane slightly gives hints of the relationship between color and characteristic. He shows in this quote that like children, the young soldiers circulate rumor within the regiment. Crane continues in the very same chapter to writes "he was aware that these battalions with their commotions

were woven red and startling into the gentle fabric of the softened greens and browns. It looked to be the wrong place for a battlefield" (Crane 377). The author expresses the youthfulness of the battalions with the colors brown and green. He also begin to hint on the image of the battle field as the color red.

Red is used most often in Crane's novel. He writes of "...the red eye-like gleam of hostile...

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