The Red Badge of Courage

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The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Moving again toward the "furnace roar" of the battle, Henry finds a road packed with retreating wagons and men. This discovery comforts Henry: it seems to amplify the danger he fled at first but has now resolved to confront.
The retreat justifies Henry's own hasty retreat earlier, and also boosts Henry's sense of his own courage, since he is now returning to fight what these men are fleeing.
Themes
Courage Theme Icon
The War Machine Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon
Everyone moves aside for a column of soldiers headed to the front lines. Henry perceives them as a glorious "procession of chosen beings" and feels pathetic, totally inadequate by comparison.
Despite the deaths he has just seen, Henry still views war as glorious. He sees in these soldiers the man he hopes to be.
Themes
Courage Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
Henry imagines trading places with one of these men. He pictures himself strong and determined, charging the enemy and getting "calmly killed" on a hilltop for all to see. Henry feels a thrill at contemplating the "magnificent pathos" of his own corpse.
Henry imagines death as a romantic part of a story. Who gets "calmly" killed in war? Notice that the point isn't just to get killed, but to be seen getting killed.
Themes
Courage Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
Henry almost heads to the front lines, but realizes that he has no gear and no regiment—he's hungry, thirsty, and physically spent. He needs to find his regiment, but fears their harsh disapproval, and that his name will become a catchphrase for coward.
Henry confronts his human needs and realizes the limitations of being just one individual in the army. Realizing one's limits is a major part of becoming a mature person.
Themes
The War Machine Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
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Henry thinks his problem could be solved if the army lost. Then his decision to flee from overwhelming odds would be vindicated. Henry realizes this is a terrible thing to wish, but he sees no way out of it.
In growing up, Henry must compromise his desires for his duty, his own vindication versus the oath of loyalty to his army.
Themes
Courage Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon