The Red Badge of Courage

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The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The regiment reassembles and is ready to march. In line, Henry remembers the packet of letters that Wilson had entrusted to him. Henry decides to keep the packet as a "small weapon" to use against Wilson if he asks about Henry running away. Thinking back on Wilson's serious and sentimental gesture of the packet, Henry feels superior and proud again.
Henry is as much at war with his insecurity as with the enemy: the tattered man with his "knife thrusts," the "small weapon" Henry holds to use against Wilson. Here, Henry is smug about Wilson's fear, as if he had never suffered any weakness.
Themes
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Feeling like a veteran, Henry forgives himself for his anxieties and internal philosophical debates: they were just youthful delusions. Now he feels like a man of experience, confident that he's been chosen for glory. He remembers how the other soldiers who ran away were overly hasty and wild. Henry scorns them, believing that he fled the battle with "discretion and dignity."
Henry flip-flops on his attitudes about himself. He assumes he's become a man (after one day) and a veteran (after one fight). His interpretation of his running away as more dignified than his fellow soldiers' actions is ridiculous: he tried to run faster than everyone else.
Themes
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Wilson nervously approaches Henry and asks for his packet of letters back. Seeing that Wilson is blushing with shame, Henry returns the packet without a word. Because he withheld comment and did not take advantage of his friend, Henry judges himself to be a generous and extraordinary man.
Though it costs him embarrassment, Wilson is ready to face his fears and shortcomings. But Henry is not ready, preferring to remain happily delusional about his self-importance.
Themes
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Youth and Manhood Theme Icon