Lately I have been speaking out more about my dealings with an extended family member who has been a toxic presence in my and my immediate family’s lives. In doing so I have come across many others who have had similar experiences and shown great courage in sharing them and in moving on with their lives. I have wanted to find a way to recognize these people for their bravery, and so today I’m doing just that.
Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage is a coming of age story that chronicles the exploits of civil war soldiers, namely that of Henry Fleming.In the novel, Fleming starts out as a young soldier with grande ideas as to his capabilities and what being a man and succeeding in war will entail. Quite honestly, many of his early behaviors, tendencies, and modes of thinking are similar to accounts I’ve read of various personality disorders (narcissism, antisocial personality disorder/sociopathy, etc.).
At one point, Fleming sees a group of wounded soldiers and describes their afflictions as being a “Red Badge of Courage.” This juxtaposes how he feels of himself in the moment as this occurs while he is fleeing from battle (and being a general hole). Eventually Fleming becomes more aware of his true self and position in life, and by the end of the novel he has taken his experiences and used them to grow positively while laying to rest his grandiose sense of self-worth.
To me, Fleming’s journey represents one we all undertake at one point or another. People who suffer from the afflictions above never take the time for self-reflection that is needed for this type of positive growth. Victims of these people bear emotional and mental wounds (sometimes even physical ones) which stand as a testament to their courage for having survived their interactions with these people. When these emotional wounds are coupled with the courage to do more than just survive, the courage to grow bigger than the pain and stand up to help others who suffer, well I think that deserves something. If you are one of these people, then I think you deserve
Why use this piece of literature in such a way? Because Henry Fleming overcomes his poor tendencies to become a wise person, because the way holes treat others is a form of emotional warfare, because people manage to survive and (despite that emotional warfare, and often because of it) become better people. I have watched as my grandmother slowly turned several of my mom’s four sisters into versions of herself. Sometimes we become the bad company we keep, other times we survive the bad company we keep. Every so often, we triumph over that company and become something truly amazing: a whole person who cares and stands up for other people and ourselves.
There are no requirements for receiving this award (you do not have to write things about yourself or pass it on to others). If you feel you know someone who deserves it, by all means pass it on! When you do, write a very brief post linking the award to the person in question (preferably to a post that exemplifies the award, but not necessarily). This way the person will be notified via pingback. You can link to the image for your blog’s sidebar via this page, or simply save to your desktop and upload it.
Oh, I should mention that it’s been awhile since I skimmed this book (middle or high school). I relied on sparknotes to fill in the gaps (not having time to reread today). I will revisit the novel this weekend and make any appropriate changes, please feel free to point out any and all inconsistencies and/or inaccuracies!
For your convenience, here is a thumbnail!