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Red Badge of Courage - Fight or Flight: The Natural Reaction to Danger

Uploaded by LaBouMaBou on Dec 05, 2001

For all of our existence, we humans have observed nature and its perplexing, if not bizarre, creations. One of the most general findings about animals deals with their reactions when they encounter perilous situations. This is the well-known, fight or flight expression. This, however, is not a rule strictly applying to “wild” animals. In fact, it actually encompasses the human species as well. Author Stephen Crane wrote a book called The Red Badge of Courage that deals with this idea. This novel is set in the time of the American Civil War in which Henry Fleming, the protagonist, is in the Union army. He, along with most of the other characters in the book, takes action along the terms of fight or flight. They all, at some point or another, get afraid of something and try to hide from it in any way possible.

Henry is a young man, who eagerly enlists in the army at the beginning of The Red Badge of Courage. He is looking forward to fighting in battle and is disappointed that his regiment hasn’t yet seen the battlefield. When they finally do come face to face with a band of Confederate soldiers, Henry decides he’d rather demonstrate the flight quality and survive, than fight and be mortally wounded, so he runs away and takes cover in a secluded area in the forest. After running away, Henry attempts to rationalize his behavior so that the rest of his regiment will not dub him as a scared young boy. “He wondered what they would remark when later he appeared in camp. His mind heard howls of derision. Their density would not enable them to understand his sharper point of view.” His first instincts tell him he is a horrible coward, not worthy of fighting in the war, however, later on he convinces himself he was only trying to save himself. He also notes that the other soldiers who didn’t run were ignorant as to the danger they were bringing upon themselves.

It seemed that the blind ignorance and stupidity of those little pieces had betrayed him. He had been overturned and crushed by their lack of sense in holding the position, when intelligent deliberation would have convinced them that it was impossible. He, the enlightened man who looks afar in the dark, had fled because of his superior perceptions and knowledge. He felt a great anger against his comrades....

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Uploaded by:   LaBouMaBou

Date:   12/05/2001

Category:   Literature

Length:   4 pages (957 words)

Views:   1611

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