The Red Badge of Courage

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Themes and Colors
Courage Theme Icon
The War Machine Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Red Badge of Courage, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Nature Theme Icon

Henry has a keen eye for his surroundings, and descriptions of landscapes get a great deal of attention in the narrative. Descriptions of scenery emphasize the stark difference between nature and the war machine. Battles look strangely inappropriate being fought on sunny fields. When the smoke clears, the sky is just as blue and beautiful as before. Nature exists separately from the war, going "tranquilly on with her golden process in the midst of so much devilment." At first it seems as if this separateness makes nature a tranquil refuge from the war. But as the novel progresses, Henry realizes that nature is merely indifferent to human concerns. This is shockingly apparent when Henry sees ants feeding on the face of a dead soldier. This unsympathetic view of nature, common to Naturalism, the literary movement that Crane pioneered, comes from the late-19th-century fascination with Darwin's theory of natural selection and the fight for survival in a hostile world.

Nature ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Nature appears in each chapter of The Red Badge of Courage. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Nature Quotes in The Red Badge of Courage

Below you will find the important quotes in The Red Badge of Courage related to the theme of Nature.
Chapter 7 Quotes
He was being looked at by a dead man who was seated with his back against a columnlike tree. The corpse was dressed in a uniform that once had been blue, but was now faded to a melancholy shade of green. The eyes, staring at the youth, had changed to the dull hue to be seen on the side of a dead fish. The mouth was open. Its red had changed to an appalling yellow. Over the gray skin of the face ran little ants. One was trundling some sort of a bundle along the upper lip. ... The dead man and the living man exchanged a long look.
Related Characters: Henry Fleming (the youth), Dead soldier
Related Symbols: Corpses
Page Number: 49-50
Explanation and Analysis:

In this frightening, almost nightmarish scene, Henry stumbles upon a soldier's corpse. To Henry's horror, the corpse is covered in ants, who walk all over the dead body with no respect for human dignity. Nature, one could say, is totally indifferent to human concerns--the universe doesn't care about the differences between the Union and the Confederate armies; life goes on either way. Note the subtle color symbolism here--the red and blue (the official colors of the Confederate and Union troops) of the soldier's body have become green and yellow, symbolizing the decay of all political and ideological values in the face of utter annihilation.

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