The Red Badge of Courage

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The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The assault begins. Henry is furious that the enemy has given them no time to rest, no room to breathe. He tells Wilson the enemy better watch out if they keep up the chase. Wilson calmly replies that if the enemy keeps chasing them, everyone will be driven back into the river. This makes Henry even angrier.
While Henry still acts tough, Wilson calmly reveals what's really at stake: everyone in their regiment could be killed. If they were driven into the river, the regiment would end up where it started and its journey would have been an absolute failure.
Themes
Courage Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
Henry's regiment starts shooting, creating a wall of smoke. Henry feels like his rifle is a little useless stick. Disoriented by the noise, the smoke, and his own surging hatred, Henry is absorbed in the action. He stands, fires, and falls, thinking he might be shot. He ignores it, continuously reloading the hot barrel to keep shooting. Sensing that the enemy might be falling back, Henry pushes forward, firing furiously.
Henry is driven by rage and rather than by visions of glory. Henry is not aware of an enemy or purpose. He's just working on instinct and reflex, like a factory worker. He ignores a possible wound rather than proudly focusing on it.
Themes
Courage Theme Icon
The War Machine Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon
A voice calls out to Henry to quit. He realizes he's alone in front with no enemies in sight. He turns to see his regiment staring at him, amazed. The fight is over, and Henry says, "Oh."
Henry achieves his dream: to appear brave in the eyes of others. His weak response ("Oh") shows how courage can be dull and unglamorous.
Themes
Courage Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon
The lieutenant praises Henry, saying that if he had ten thousand "wild cats" like Henry he could win the war in a week. The soldiers congratulate each other and Henry for fighting like a beast. But Henry hadn't even been aware of the fight. It feels to him as if he was asleep and woke up a knight.
Henry hadn't planned or even realized his courageous outbreak. It happened somewhere deep within his consciousness, beyond his capacity to perceive or describe it.
Themes
Courage Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
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