Henry Fleming, the protagonist, in The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane undergoes a process of maturation that is both physical and emotional. We are first introduced to Fleming by description only, not by name: "the youthful private" and "the youth". His desire to enlist is based on youthful innocence. "He had, of course, dreamed of battles all of his life- of vague and bloody conflicts that had thrilled him with their sweep and fire." Henry had read in school about ancient warriors, and even though he knows such battles no longer exist, he dreams of being a hero. It is this immaturity that causes him to be disappointed when his mother sends him off with a speech about knitting him socks and not one about his impending heroism. He innocently thinks that he will fight the whole war by himself.
Henry quickly learns that his enlistment in the 304th Regiment New York is not like the storybook tales he has read. Initially Henry is eager for battle so that he can prove to himself that he really is courageous. However, as the battle comes closer, he starts to fear his own ability and worries that he will cowardly run away. He fights well enough in the first engagement, but in the second he is exhausted and scared. When two men standing near him run, he throws down his gun and races away from the fighting. He rationalizes his actions by telling himself that the regiment was about to be wiped out. However, when he finds out that they, in fact, won the battle he fears that his cowardice will be found out. He has not matured yet and is merely continuing to run away from his problems rather than face them.
However, Henry starts to really mature as he receives his Red Badge of Courage. Until this point Henry only had an inner wound of fear and shame. As he is walking among the wounded member of his regiment he tries to find out what is happening and he grabs one of the soldier's arms. The soldier panics and hit Henry in the head with the butt of his rifle.