Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade November 2001

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Discovery is a process which sculpts us into who we are. Our experiences serve as the foundation in which our emotional, intellectual, and spiritual selves are formed. In a broad sense, these experiences bring forth the discoveries we make. Henry Fleming, the focal character in The Red Badge of Courage , unearths many findings pertaining to both himself and his surroundings. His individual experiences pave the way for the discoveries he uncloaks, and, through them, he has matured in all aspects of growth.

Having dreamed of the glory and bravery of war since childhood, Henry was eager to enlist in the Army. Similar to a war hero of ancient Greece, he envisions himself receiving much praise and respect. He learns quickly, however, that "all that glitters isn't gold". Henry expects his mother to make an effort to halt his progress in enlisting. He is surprised when she instructs him to meet his responsibilities, even if it means losing his life.

Henry uncovers his first discovery, which is the world will keep turning independent of his well-being. He also realizes that war is sometimes glorified, and earning a heroic name is not as important as getting his "job" completed.

The main battle in The Red Badge of Courage takes place psychologically in Henry's own head. He struggles with the notion of running from a battle, therefore being a coward. Reality hits him as he recognizes that he may be in the heat of battle " on the 'morrow." In his first battle, however, Henry overcomes his fear and performs exceptionally well. This concept again relates to his personal discovery. If fear holds oneself back success is not possible. Henry let his mind control him until he discovered confidence and drive deep inside himself. He loses concern for himself, and produces for his "team" of soldiers.

After the first battle has settled, Henry looks around. He sees the sun on the treetops and the bright blue sky, and is surprised that nature keeps on going, with no regard for the bloody events of the field. This is a key discovery Henry makes. No matter what happens pertaining to the war, the world still goes on unaffected. This is the first time the concept is truly instilled in Henry. He heard a similar idea earlier from his mother.

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