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Expectations versus Reality in Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage

Expectations versus Reality in Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage

The notion that war is an exciting, romantic endeavor full of glory and heroism has existed for centuries. Stephen Crane set out to demystify war through his novel The Red Badge of Courage, which traces the experiences of a young soldier in the American Civil War. Crane shows the true nature of war by contrasting Henry Fleming’s romantic expectations with the reality that he encounters.

This contrast between romantic vision and cold reality can be seen early in the novel, with Henry’s departure from home. Driven to a “prolonged ecstasy of excitement” by the rejoicing crowd, Henry enlists in the army and says good-bye to his mother with a “light of excitement and expectancy in his eyes” (709). He anticipates a romantic, sentimental send-off reminiscent of Spartan times and even goes as far as preparing remarks in advance which he hopes to use “with touching effect” to create “a beautiful scene” (710).

However, Crane presents a more realistic view. At the news of Henry’s enlistment, his mother simply says “The Lord’s will be done” and continues milking the cow, having previously urged Henry not to be “a fool” by enlisting (709). She then destroys his hopes by offering sensible,…

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…es in anguish while his friend Jim suffers and dies.

Today, many of the romantic myths about war have been destroyed through television and movies such as Born on the Fourth of July, which shows war with all its suffering, pain, and death. Yet it was Stephen Crane who, a century ago, deglorified war through the experiences of Henry Fleming. With his frequent contrasts between romantic vision and cold reality, Crane clearly portrays the true horrors of war.

Work Cited

Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage. Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Geroge McMichael, et al. 5th ed.Vol. 2. New York: Macmillan, 1993. 707-87.

Essay on Dreams and Escape in The Glass Menagerie

Dreams and Escape in The Glass Menagerie

The dream of escape is the focal point in the play, The Glass Menagerie, by Tennessee Williams. Although each character wants to escape from a different reality, they all feel the need to get away. The father is the most successful in his escape – he leaves the family and doesn’t look back. Laura, Amanda, Tom, and Jim, are not as fortunate, they seem to be stuck throughout the play. Jim seems to be the only one with a real chance at breaking away from his reality. Tom seems to breaks free, but we discover that his escape attempt fails because he can’t forget Laura.

Throughout the play, each person escapes their reality in some way and is somewhat successful at it. Whether through dreams or actually walking away, everyone manages to break free. Tom is, by far, the biggest dreamer. Tom dreams of leaving the “…over crowded urban centers of lower middle-class population” (Williams 1267). Tom envies his father who actually had the guts to walk out. Tom expresses this when he tells Amanda, “…Mother, I’d be where [the father] is!” (Williams 1277). Tom wants to leave so desperately that he “…paid [his Merchant Marine] dues this month, instead of the light bill” (Williams 1295). Tom would rather think of himself and let his mother and sister sit in the dark, alone, than take responsibility for his family. Tom says he is “…tired of the movies” (Williams 1294) meaning that he is ready for his own adventures. He “…[retires] to a cabinet of the washroom to work on poems when business [is] slack in the warehouse” (Williams 1289) By doing this, Tom is looking for yet another escape from the reality of working at a job he hates.

Tom also loathes his mother in some…

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…en have a chance are the people least connected with the Wingfield family. Just like the glass unicorn, this family is transparent, pitiful and broken. They never succeed in anything except dreaming for a better reality that will never come.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bloom, Harold. Introduction. Tennessee Williams. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 1-8.

King, Thomas L. “Irony and Distance in The Glass Menagerie.” In Tennessee Williams. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. 85-94.

Levy, Eric P. “‘Through Soundproof Glass’: The Prison of Self Consciousness in The Glass Menagerie.” Modern Drama, 36. December 1993. 529-537.

Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. In Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing, 4th ed. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995. 1519-1568.

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