The Role of Individualism Versus Conformity.
Stephen Crane's pieces are written with the intent to establish individualism as an unfavorable quality. He establishes that group goals are more important than that of the individual and creates groups to which each character should conform. Crane supplies models for the individual to comply to and elucidates that adherence to the group would bring reward but deviation from said groups would be detrimental. Henry, in Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, is created as a child in search of self worth and assurance. Crane establishes Henry as an individual by giving him the ability to think for himself but creates situations that stifle his individualism in order for him to stay within the group. .
Henry does the one thing that men ought not. He thinks. In his thoughts he sees past the glory and valor that comes with enlisting and comes to question what could happen to him on the battlefield. He acknowledges the presence of something that the other men dare not: death. The realization that lives are at stake, especially his own, cause Henry to question whether he will have to courage to stay and fight or whether he will run. .
Crane creates Henry as an individual in a mass society. He injects him into the army with aspirations of attaining a sense of identity. Crane establishes Henry as "the youth" to make it apparent that he was not like the other men of the 304th regiment. Henry stands out among the men and "muse[s] seriously upon the radical differences between himself and those men who were dodging implike around the tree"(P.184). Not only Henry's eye catches his obvious detachment from the group. Upon seeing Henry, Wilson responds "What you doing here?"(P.184), extending Henry's exclusivity and insinuating that he is out of place. .
Henry "continually tries to measure himself by his comrades"(P.181). Consequently, he attempts to quill his lack of confidence by seeking out others from whom he can find confidence.