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The Red Badge of Courage vs. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

The two classic novels The Red Badge of Courage, by Stephen Crane and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain were written roughly ten years from each other, but both share common bonds. The Red Badge of Courage deals with a boy who chooses to go to war to fight for the Union, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a story about Huck Finn, a boy growing up in the south who runs away from home. But, both The Red Badge of Courage and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn depict the way two young boys growing up in early America developed into men. Both Crane and Twain have chosen to put their characters into a life-changing situation, in which they are away from their families and must fend for themselves. This forces both characters to mature immediately in order to survive, and enter manhood. The Red Badge of Courage and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn arenít similar in plot, but in how the protagonists are forced to enter manhood because of the situations they put themselves in.

In The Red Badge of Courage, Henry enters manhood gradually as he grows more accustomed to life as a soldier. When we first meet Henry, we see him as a boy growing up in the country. His mother plays a bigger role in his life, telling him that she "knet yeh eight pair of socks, Henry, and I've put in all yer best shirts, because I want my boy to be jest as warm and comf'able as anybody in the army. Whenever they get holes in 'em, I want yeh to send 'em right-away back to me, so's I kin dern 'em"(p. 9). But then he goes to the war, which forces him to become independent, and responsible for himself. At first, he seems timid and unsure of himself. But after receiving a blow to the head in a battle, which he referred to as his "red badge of courage," he appears more confident, as well as heroic. As the story ends, Henry "felt a quiet manhood, nonassertive but of sturdy and strong blood. He knew that he would no more quail before his guides wherever they should point. He had been to touch the great death, and found that, after all, it was but the great death. He was a man"(p.115). Being a part of the war had given Henry a sense of maturity, importance, and purpose. He had matured greatly since the beginning of the story, and had experienced the rite of passage into manhood.

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck runs away from home because he is afraid for his life. By doing this he has to depend on himself and his own skills in order to survive. Huck seems very independent to start, but as he travels down the Mississippi he learns more about people, and interacting with strangers that as a result, makes him more mature. Huck is put into situations that are both threatening and dangerous. In order to endure his adventures, he must rely on his own skills and devices. Another point of maturing for Huck is his opinion of Jim. In the beginning of their voyage, Huck feels he shouldn't be helping Jim to freedom and almost turns him in to slave catchers. "I was paddling off, all in a sweat to tell on him; but when he says this [that Huck is his one and only friend] it seemed to take the tuck all out of me. I went along slow then, and I warn't right down certain whether I was glad I started or whether I warn't."(p. 93). Huck begins to enjoy having Jim's company but, when Jim is sold by the Duke and the King, Huck breaks down and cries while asking the Duke where Jim is. "Sold him' I says, and begun to cry; 'why he was my nigger, and that was my money. Where is he?-- I want my nigger"(p. 212). This shows the way that Huck had become attached to Jim, even if he still uses somewhat racist language for the time period. After this, Huck steals Jim from the Phelps farm. Huck Finn matures throughout the book in terms of his social skills, as well as his acceptance of Jim, an African American slave.

The protagonists in both novels there is a similarity because each matures significantly during his experiences away from home and what he is accustomed to. Henry and Huck both enter the rite of passage into manhood by experiencing danger, self-reliance, and independence throughout their travels. The actual situations that each put themselves into are different, but the things that they learn, and the fact that they both must become completely independent remain the same for each character. By the end of each novel, Henry and Huck have reached a higher level of maturity, and enter a state of manhood.