Color Imagery in The Red Badge of Courage. A description of what red, green, and gray represent in Stephen Crane’s novel.

Color Imagery in The Red Badge of Courage. A description of what red, green, and gray represent in Stephen Crane’s novel.

Color Imagery in The Red Badge of Courage Stephen Crane uses color imagery and color symbols in The Red Badge of Courage. Green represents youth, red is a symbol of Henry Fleming’s mental visions of battle, and gray is used as a symbol for death. The colors are subtle representations of emotion, character, and one’s perception of events. “As the landscape changed from brown to green, the army awakened, and began to tremble with eagerness at the noise of rumors” (Crane 368). Like children, the young soldiers circulate rumor within the regiment (Rice).

Later Crane 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). Green represents the youthfulness of the battalions, and red is an image of battle (Rice). Red is used most often in The Red Badge of Courage. Crane writes of “… the red eye-like gleam of hostile campfires set in the low brow of distant hills,” (Crane 368). In Henry’s mind, the campfires represent the eyes of the enemy. Crane then continues with the metaphor in later chapters.

He writes, “? he conceived them to be growing larger, as the orbs of a row of dragons advancing. ” (Crane **) “The red of the campfires comes to represent the eyes of the enemy, of dragons. The monstrous dragons are indeed, the opposing army. ” (Rice) All forms of war are red to Henry. “… war, the red animal – war, the blood-swollen god. ” (Crane 378) This animal of war “rules over and feasts on battles. ” (Rice). Henry characterizes the battles as a “crimson roar”. The screams and the gunfire are red to him. The red world of war is comparative to the red world of Hell.

A prisoner curses his captors to the “red regions”. “Whether or not he intends for them to go to the red regions of Hell is irrelevant; they are already in some kind of Hell. ” (Rice) Anger is also shown through the color red. At the end of the book, Henry feels odium towards himself and lets out “an outburst of crimson oaths” (Crane **). These oaths could be promises regarding his courage in battle or they could be words spoken in fury. Earlier, Henry is in a “red rage” (Crane 382) that “demonstrates the violent passion of this soldier’s desire to fight. ” (Rice)

By the end of the book, Henry had “rid himself of the red sickness of battle” (Crane 423). Red here represents not anger, but fear. Henry finds his courage not through a wound but by overcoming his fear of “the red animal, war” and being able to face death. It was the red sickness that previously kept him from his red badge of courage. (Rice) Henry craved “a wound, a red badge of courage” (Crane 390). He idealized the veterans as having “red, live bones sticking out through the slits in faded uniforms” (Crane **). A man with a red badge of courage is a survivor.

A dead man is never described as red, but as gray. “The text acknowledges that death is in no way courageous. While the blood of injury and battle are red, all imagery of death is a lifeless gray” (Rice). Crane is as thorough in his connection between death and gray as he was with the red connection. “Gray is not only the uniform color of the opposition, but also the color of many omens of death, and of each dead or deathly person Fleming encounters” (Rice). “[Henry] perceived with dim amazement that their uniforms were rather gay in effect, being a light gray” (Crane 414).

Gray quickly loses its gaiety, possibly reflecting Henry’s lack of fear of death. Crane also writes of the “long, gray walls of vapor where lay the battle lines” (Crane **). These are the battle lines that will end up killing Jim Conklin, the tall soldier (Rice). Deaths are foreshadowed by a “gray dawn” (Crane 376) and by the “gray mists [that] were slowly shifting before the first efforts of the sun rays? it dressed the skin of the men in corpselike hues and made the tangled limbs appear pulseless and dead” (Crane 402).

Gray is obviously a sign of death, and Crane goes more deeply into it in the description of Jim when the sincerity of his injury starts to show. “[Jim’s] face turned to a semblance of gray paste” (Crane 391). Crane even puts plainly into the text that the color gray and death are related when he writes “another had the gray seal of death already upon his face”(Crane 389). Crane emphasizes gray so that it signals death and even comes to represent death within the text (Rice). Crane’s deliberate use of color symbols and color imagery allows a reader to better interpret the way Henry feels and thinks.

Green symbolizes youth. Red indicates courage, battle, bloodshed, and anger. Gray implies death and human defeat. Because Crane uses color deliberately and carefully, each takes on a meaning of its own. Works Cited Aisling – Dream Interpretation. http://www. avcweb. com/dreams/colour-meaning. htm* Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage. American Literature. Ed. George Kerns. New York: Macmillan, 1984 Gregg, Rachel. http://www2. msstate. edu/~rmg4/colormeaning. html. Last modified: December 12, 2000* http://library. thinkquest. org/library/lib/site_sum_outside. tml? tname=50065&url=50065* http://www. digiserve. com/heraldry/symbols. htm* Rice, Elizabeth. “Color in Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage”. March 6, 1995. http://www. colorado. edu/english/engl4652/rice. html The Red Badge of Courage Online ftp://ibiblio. org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext96/badge10a. txt *Web sites were used throughout the paper as a general resource. ** The copy of The Red Badge of Courage in the literature book does not have this paragraph, but it is used in Rice’s essay and in internet publications of the book.

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