Top 7 Symbols
There are very few symbols in The Red Badge of Courage, owing to Stephen Crane's desire to create a realistic account of war. The following list containing Red Badge of Courage symbolism is limited but useful.
(1) The Red Badge of Courage
Henry calls the soldier's wounds in chapter 9 a "red badge of courage." He literally means physical wounds; A red badge of courage, however, can also represent emotional wounds.
Take, for example, Henry's head wound, suffered not as a result of battle, but as a result of cowardice. Even after Henry's triumph in battle, he still looks on his cowardly behavior with a sense of shame and regret.
The battle itself symbolizes each person's individual battles in life, the propensity to run in the face of fear, stopping short of one's goal, and being resentful of those who have succeeded.
(2) The Dead Soldier
Henry comes across a decaying soldier, covered with ants, completely stripped of his identity. The soldier represents the futility of mortal accomplishments, all of which mean nothing after death.
(3) The Color Red
Crane mentions the color red several times. Possible interpretations include the fires of hell, eyes of demons, and blood.
Henry repeatedly envisions the enemy as dragons. Whether it's an extension of the romanticized tales he read growing up or a deeply psychological portrayal of an enemy he feels is unbeatable is not explicit.
After Henry's initial battle, he is stunned that the sun is shining and the sky is blue. Crane, being a Naturalist writer, believed nature was indifferent and did not concern itself in man's affairs.
(6) The Loud Soldier/Wilson
The Loud Soldier loses his loudness after the first battle, symbolizing the maturing process one undergoes in life.
As Henry laments his initial cowardly behavior and contemplates his personal success in battle, it rains, symbolically washing away past transgressions and opening the way for a new beginning.