The Red Badge of Courage

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

The Red Badge of Courage Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The soldiers learn that one of their own was wounded: Jimmy Rogers, who is screaming and thrashing in the grass. Henry goes with Wilson to find some water, but there is no stream. As they return, they get a view of the entire battlefield, watching lines of men and masses of troops. They see a general and his staff riding along, almost running over a wounded man on the ground.
The battle has begun to change Henry: he now joins Wilson in trying to help others. Just as Jim was afraid of being run over, the wounded man is almost trampled by officers. This is a metaphor for the insignificance of individual soldiers within the vast war machine.
Themes
The War Machine Theme Icon
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
Noise and Silence Theme Icon
Nature Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
The general stops near enough for Henry and Wilson to overhear some news. A strong enemy charge is threatening to break the lines, and the attack will be costly to repel. The general asks an officer what troops he can spare. The officer offers Henry's regiment, saying that they fight like "mule drivers." The general accepts, admitting that few of them will probably survive.
As if zooming out from Henry's individual experience of fighting, the officers gain a wider and more calculating perspective on the battle. Soldiers and regiments are like pieces in a chess match. Some, like Henry's regiment, are expendable.
Themes
Courage Theme Icon
The War Machine Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon
Disheartened, Henry and Wilson return to their regiment to share the news of their impending charge. They don't tell anyone about the officer's insult. Henry feels like his eyes have been opened to his own insignificance. The soldiers tighten their belts and get ready for a sprint to the woods. Henry and Wilson quietly nod when a shaggy soldier nearby says they'll all get swallowed.
There's an ironic gap between the feeling of being important and the reality. Henry matures not just by fighting hard, but by coming to terms with his insignificance. Both take courage. But Henry isn't quite ready to give in to his limited importance: he will fight against it, and the insulting officer, in the next skirmish.
Themes
Youth and Manhood Theme Icon
The Living and the Dead Theme Icon