Throughout every major time period and every piece of literature there has come to be a stance in the community of the church and how it was displayed to the public eye. The novel, The red badge of courage by Steven Crane, has this imagery of the church and its religion, which is evident in particular instances spread through the novel. Crane uses this imagery not only to entertain the reader with pungent detail, but also to enhance the readers involvement in the novel.
The first major use of this religious imagery appears at the end of the seventh chapter. “After running at length, he reached a place where the high, arching boughs made a chapel.” “Near the threshold he stopped, horror-stricken at the sight.” “He was being looked at by a dead man who was seated with his back against a column-like tree.”(46) The stark irony of a rotten corpse in a backdrop such as the isolated chapel deep in the forest works well with its explicit detail and the realization it brings to Henry about just how real the war is.
This also brings about a great feeling of loneliness, which is one of the many stages that Henry goes through during the story. Henry feels isolated by his cowardly actions.Trying to justify his act of running, he compares himself to a squirrel that ran from an acorn that he had just thrown. By saying that it was just because of the natural inclination of self-preservation, Henry makes himself feel a little better, but there is still that element of unclarity that he faces. That element however will be a Godsend to Henry, because it will indirectly leads him to his next stage of his consciencenes, acceptance of the war.
Before he reaches that next stage of enlightenment, he spends a lot of time with other soldiers. Just by being around them, he sees how religious some soldiers are. When faced with the fact that they could die at any moment, the soldiers become very spiritual and faith filled. “Gaw’d.” “I swear t’ Gawd I will.” (53-54) It is easy to see what war can do to the human nature that these soldiers once had. It has turned them from ordinary men to trained killers. They soon realize after the first battle the difference between the reality of brutal war and the dillusions of grandeur they once had of becoming heroes.
Another major use of religious imagery is shown through Henry’s thoughts when Jim Conklin is on his deathbed. Jim, the tall soldier, was overcome with the fear that the artillery on wheels will decapitate him. He tells this to Henry, who ends up helping Jim to an isolated spot in the woods so he can die with dignity. “I’ll take care of yeh, Jim! I’ll take care of yeh! I swear t’Gawd I will!” “Jim, Jim, come with me, inteh th’ fields.” (53-55) Jim and Henry both know he is dying, and Henry helps Jim to the area with bushes so he can die like a man. After Jim dies, Henry realizes the toll it has taken on him. Jim represented the comfort and authority Henry had depended on, and also it was a loss of a friend he had had since childhood. This source of comfort was gone, leaving henry more alone that ever, and making him more dependent on other things, like God.
It isn’t until later that Henry realizes the similarities between Jim Conklin and none other than the Son of God himself, Jesus Christ. The first thing that Henry notices is that they both share the same initials and considers this ironic. The similarities, however are not just superficial.Henry also noticed how they both were leaders, who would not stand idle as their followers are killed. Both had the initiative to take action for what they believed in.
The Red Badge of Courage displayed not the religious views of all America, but the views of a small community, seeing as America is one gigantic melting pot of races and religions. This novel focuses on the trials an inexperienced regiment of soldiers faces, and how they cope with them. Some chose to forget the world outside of war, and others turned to God for the answers they seeked. But only those devoted to find alternatives to war became truly enlightened.